Starter Brian Burres got peppered around the park in the early going, sinking his team to a five-run deficit. And right after his team had crawled onto the scoreboard, he set a difficult inning in motion. Burres walked the leadoff man in the sixth, and Alberto Castillo put four straight men on -- two on walks, two on hit batsmen -- in a three-run rally.
That four-batter span marked the third consecutive game in which the Orioles have put four straight men on base, and it was also part and parcel of a more gruesome statistic. Baltimore (63-73) had just two 1-2-3 innings all series, putting even more stress on the beleaguered lineup. The Orioles didn't score until the sixth on Sunday, but it didn't really matter.
"It's even harder for them to hit," said Burres, "when they're sitting on the field for 40 minutes because I can't get the outs. It's not something that you really like to see. We're going to turn it around here and start pitching some better ballgames."
"There are no excuses, but that's a difficult situation," added first baseman Kevin Millar. "When you fall behind by seven, eight or nine runs in the middle of the game, it's tough. They're out there throwing bullpen [sessions]. There's no fear of them to walk somebody because they go after the next guy. That's the only adjustment you have to make mentally as a hitter. That's what we're talking about, but that's not an excuse. We got our butts kicked, flat-out beat these three games."
Burres (7-9) got hit pretty hard in the first three innings, and the Rays (84-51) earned a lead after just five batters. Willy Aybar did the honors, lining a two-run single with two outs in the first. Burres gave up two hits and a run in the second, and then two hits and two walks that led to two runs in the third. He settled down, though, and pitched into the sixth.
That's where the game turned for good, thanks to a wild outing from Castillo. The southpaw came in with two outs and two men on base, and he hit two straight batters to make it a five-run game. Castillo went on to walk Carlos Pena and Rocco Baldelli, forcing home two more runs, and the Orioles wound up with their 10th loss in their last 12 games.
Baltimore scored three late runs to make the game appear cosmetically closer, and Trembley said that the result may have been different if his pitchers had managed to keep the game within reason in the middle innings. The Orioles have evaluated several pitchers this season and may use September for the same purpose, according to Trembley.
"You reap what you sow," he said. "The opportunities that you get will be evaluated accordingly, and I think you have to take each and every opportunity that you have as an important one. Obviously, we're looking for people who can get people out. Every out is important, especially with the way this club has been so resilient bouncing back offensively."
Burres, whose season started with a 3-1 record and a 2.59 ERA in April, has seen his numbers get progressively worse. The left-hander had an ERA over 5.00 in each of the next three months and was even optioned to Triple-A Norfolk in July, but he was recalled in late August after Radhames Liz and Garrett Olson pitched their way out of the rotation.
The 27-year-old admitted frustration with the way he's pitched but said walks haven't always been his problem.
"I always would rather give up hits than walks, definitely," he said in reaction to Trembley's main concern. "But as a pitcher, you still have to try to make a quality pitch down in the zone. You can't just try to throw belt-high fastballs because that's no fun for anybody to watch either. You just have to find somewhere where you're comfortable, maybe throw middle down or something like that. But you still have to throw somewhere in the zone and attack somewhere in the zone."
Trembley reiterated that the problem wasn't isolated to any one pitcher in particular, which is why he planned on speaking to the entire team. And he said he wouldn't talk about the meeting after it happens, preferring to keep it behind closed doors.
"We haven't called the meeting yet," he said. "The game just got over with, and I haven't been in there. I'll take care of that tomorrow when I get there. I won't tell you guys what I talked about. You've watched what's been going on around here long enough. I won't answer any questions [about] that tomorrow, but people ought to know what the heck's going on.
"I'm not real pleased as punch that we have to go out there and watch 180 pitches every day."