09/23/09 12:40 AM ET
Orioles' tough loss gets to Trembley
Baltimore manager sees bullpen struggle in Toronto
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
Baltimore manager Dave Trembley found himself in one of those rare situations Tuesday, shortly after watching his bullpen blow a late lead in a 6-5 loss to Toronto. Trembley found himself lamenting the brief outings of relievers Danys Baez and Jim Johnson, and he fielded just three questions before getting his point across.
"I'm concerned about everybody at this particular point in time," Trembley said. "I feel just awful that we didn't win the game and the guys just didn't get it done. Baez had an opportunity to hold the lead, and he didn't. J.J. had an opportunity to close the game, and he didn't. I'm sure they feel absolutely terrible, and nobody feels worse about it than I do."
With that, Trembley's media responsibilities were over, leaving room only for dissection of the game. The Orioles pitched well for seven innings, and they held a 49-4 record when leading at that point of a game. Baez gave up a key two-run home run, though, and Johnson wasn't able to hold a one-run lead.
Johnson, who has blown three of his past five save opportunities, retired the first batter in the ninth inning. But the second, pinch-hitter Adam Lind, lined a single to start the rally. Travis Snider kept up the pressure with a clean single, and then John McDonald loaded the bases on a hit into shallow left field.
Johnson hit Jose Bautista to push the tying run across, but he managed to escape the inning after that. Neither team could do much with a scoring opportunity in the 10th, and Aaron Hill hit an RBI double off Dennis Sarfate to end the game in the 11th. That flurry of action left the Orioles with a loss, but one that stung more than normal.
"We had a three-run lead and our two best guys going into the eighth and ninth," said Trembley. "You'd like to think you're going to close the game out, and we didn't do that. It's unfortunate, because we played such a very good ballgame, but the final score is really what dictates how well you played. And we didn't do enough to win."
This time, as in any late loss, a lot of attention gets focused on the closer. Johnson converted his first four save opportunities after the Orioles traded George Sherrill, but he's pitched to a 13.50 ERA in September. Trembley refused to speculate about Johnson, and the reliever said he's just working through a rough patch.
"I don't know if I'm putting too much pressure [on myself]," Johnson said. "I just haven't gotten the job done lately. It's all on me. I still believe I can do the job, but the last couple outings obviously haven't gone my way."
The Orioles had to feel that things were going their way in the early innings, when Mark Hendrickson provided perhaps the best start of his career. The southpaw swingman -- who was thrust back into the rotation when Baltimore elected to shut down rookie Brian Matusz -- managed to throw six effective innings on only 68 pitches.
Hendrickson threw scoreless ball through the first two frames, but he gave back Baltimore's first lead in a two-pitch sequence. The towering left-hander gave up back-to-back home runs to Hill and Edwin Encarnacion in the third, but he retired the final 11 batters he faced and left the game with a three-run cushion.
"I felt good going out in the first inning, but in the second and third inning, I kind of lost it," Hendrickson said. "After that third inning, I seemed to get in a pretty good groove. I started throwing a few more cutters, a few more changeups. For the most part, I was pretty much fastball-curveball, which I had been throwing out of the bullpen."
Baltimore (60-91) pushed on top in the sixth inning, courtesy of a run-scoring double by Matt Wieters. Wieters then came around to score on a two-out single by Ty Wigginton. The Orioles scored again off Blue Jays starter Brian Tallet in the seventh, thanks to a record-tying double by leadoff man Brian Roberts.
Roberts, who already has surpassed his own franchise record for two-baggers, tied Lance Berkman for the most doubles in a season by a switch-hitter with his 55th. That hit wound up on the back burner, though, when Baez came in for the eighth inning and allowed Encarnacion to hit his second home run of the night.
Baez, a former closer, said he was momentarily shaken by a pitch that nearly hit Hill in the head. The right-handed veteran tried to regain his nerve, but he wound up serving up a hittable pitch.
"That ball was really close to his face and left me scrambling a little bit," Baez said. "I had to throw strikes when I was behind to Encarnacion, and I think he was waiting for one strike after I threw three balls in a row. ... He swung at the ball and he made good contact, and after that, I was just focusing on trying to keep the lead."
The Blue Jays (68-83) have won back-to-back games in this series and hold an 8-6 edge in the season series. The teams will meet in Wednesday's series finale, a game that pits Jeremy Guthrie against Scott Richmond.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.