04/23/07 11:54 PM ET
Orioles fall just short in opener vs. A's
Bedard touched for five runs early, and late rally isn't enough
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
Baltimore pushed the potential tying run to second base with no outs in its last at-bat but left the bases loaded due to a cautious baserunning decision, an ad-libbed bunt in a questionable moment and a groundout from its best player.
Still, the mood was relatively upbeat in the Baltimore clubhouse after the game. Almost everyone stressed the team's comeback -- which included five of the game's final six runs -- over the fact that it fell just short.
"When it's all said and done, we had some chances there and the breaks didn't go our way this time," said manager Sam Perlozzo, whose team had won four straight games. "The plays were nip-and-tuck and didn't fall our way. They've been falling our way for a little while now, and tonight they didn't. But the guys battled back hard and never quit.
"When we were down 5-0, the guys were in the dugout saying, 'Let's go. We can come back and get them.' They showed a lot of spirit and a lot of drive to come back and get to the point we were."
The Orioles had scored only one run when the eighth began, but they broke right back into the game with a three-run home run by first baseman Aubrey Huff. Oakland's Nick Swisher hit his second homer of the game in the ninth to give the A's a short-lived two-run cushion, but Baltimore had plenty of chances to trump that in the ninth.
Left fielder Jay Payton drew a full-count walk to lead off the ninth, and center fielder Corey Patterson drilled a first-pitch double to right field to set up a rally. One out later, Payton wound up scoring on a single up the middle, but Patterson broke back to second and was late getting to third base. If he hadn't, he likely would've scored easily.
"When the ball was hit, I thought the pitcher had a chance to get it, actually," Patterson said after the game. "I wanted to make sure, first of all, [that] it got past him. It was hit right by him. If he fields it there [and] I break hard, I'm caught in a rundown. ... I tried to make sure in that situation. I think it was definitely the right call."
"I'm sure what happens in that situation is if the ball is fairly close to the pitcher, your first reaction is to freeze or get back," added Perlozzo, who backed Patterson's cautious decision. "If it was a line drive, he could catch it. ... I'm sure that's what he was thinking, that the pitcher had a chance to catch the ball."
With that play in the books, Baltimore got another close call just two pitches later. Third baseman Melvin Mora, who has four home runs and 15 RBIs this season, elected to drop down a bunt instead of swinging away for a hit or a sacrifice fly. Oakland closer Huston Street fielded the ball easily and retired Mora for the second out of the inning.
Mora left the clubhouse while reporters were talking to Baltimore starter Erik Bedard and was unavailable for comment, but Perlozzo and Patterson both spoke up to clarify the batter's intentions.
"There wasn't any sign on," Perlozzo said. "I'm sure he felt like the third baseman was deep and he could get a ball down there and load the bases up for us -- make something happen."
"There was going to be a good chance," said Patterson on whether he'd have scored if the bunt had gotten past the pitcher. "You've got to be paying attention on third base, especially in a close game. Everything's happening so quick and you've really got to focus. If it's past the pitcher, I think as well as I run, we've definitely got a chance."
|"We're sitting there saying, 'Let's get one here and one there and we'll come back and win this thing.' Son of a gun, we put ourselves in good position to do it."|
|-- Orioles manager Sam Perlozzo on his team's near-win|
"We just lost a game. We didn't lose the season," Tejada said of the close call. "It's the same thing we did in New York -- we lost a game. There's going to be many games like this that we're going to lose. We can't worry about losing a game like this. We're just happy and lucky to be in the situation we had in the last inning."
The loss broke a four-game win streak for Baltimore (11-8), a team that had also won six straight home games. Oakland (10-9) snapped a two-game skid of its own and played its ninth one-run game of the season. The A's jumped all over Bedard in the fourth inning to take the game's first and only commanding lead.
Bedard gave up a leadoff single in the fourth to break up his no-hit bid, and his shutout was gone a few pitches later. Swisher hit a monstrous home run over the left-field fence, and Bedard never really recovered. The next few runs scored on a groundout, a wild pitch and a clean single from catcher Jason Kendall.
Meanwhile, Oakland starter Dan Haren was casually dominating the game. Haren (2-2) gave up just one hit in the first four innings and didn't allow a runner to reach scoring position until the fifth. Brian Roberts got the O's on the board with a solo homer in the sixth and Huff set up the ninth-inning drama with his eighth-inning blast.
"I sensed that they were taking each at-bat one at a time and they were rooting for each other," Perlozzo said of his club's late-inning comeback. "We're sitting there saying, 'Let's get one here and one there and we'll come back and win this thing.' Son of a gun, we put ourselves in good position to do it."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.