Uehara's outing spoiled in O's loss

Uehara's outing spoiled in loss

BALTIMORE -- They just can't close them out.

The Orioles continued to struggle in series finales Sunday, when they got an impeccable outing from their starting pitcher and an early home run from their cleanup hitter. Baltimore led for six innings but watched the Yankees charge back to earn a 5-3 win, a result that sank the home team's record to 2-9 in finales.

It's a trend that has followed them all season, starting when the Orioles won each of their first three series and continuing through a recent six-game losing streak. The O's have won the finale of just one three-game series all season, and manager Dave Trembley knows better than to bank on early momentum.

"I think there's momentum every time you score, especially here at home," said Trembley of his team's early lead. "The goal is to start the first inning off, shut the other team down and put runs on the board yourself. But we knew it was going to be a nine-inning game. The game wasn't going to be decided in the first inning."

And with the way Koji Uehara was pitching, it wasn't going to be decided until after he left. Uehara continued a strong streak of recent starts by holding the Yankees to one run in the first six innings. And right after he left, New York put together a four-run rally punctuated by a go-ahead three-run homer off Johnny Damon's bat.

Reliever Jim Johnson gave up that shot, and it came after the Yankees got back-to-back infield singles to put themselves in position. Johnson, a power reliever who mostly relies on a sinker, has already given up two home runs this season after not allowing any as a rookie last year.

"There's a lot of good hitters in the big league -- if you catch a lot of plate, that's going to happen," said Johnson. "I just fell behind. I threw a pitch in the middle part of the plate and he did what he does with it."

Prior to that game-changing shot, the tilt had belonged to Baltimore. New York scored first with a solo homer by Mark Teixeira in the top of the first, but Aubrey Huff answered with a three-run shot in the bottom half. Huff pumped his first twice while rounding the bases in an apparent dig at Joba Chamberlain.

"He's done it a couple of times to me when he's struck me out," said Huff. "I always told the guys that if I get him, I'm going to give him a nice fist pump. For me, it wasn't really showing anybody up. I was just trying to have some fun with it. He does it all the time and I figured, 'You know what? Why not?'"

Chamberlain may or may not have taken offense, but he took his revenge by slowly squeezing the life out of Baltimore's batting order. The right-hander got a key double play to extinguish a threat in the third, and he stranded two runners in the fourth and one more in each of his final two innings.

"Because we didn't score, you could say we let him off the hook," said Trembley. "You can look at the other side and say he pitched pretty good. ... I mean, gosh darn it, he got better. He pitched better after the first inning."

Uehara, meanwhile, was busy matching him. The right-hander kept the Yankees off balance and off base in the middle innings, keeping the road team from pushing a single runner to scoring position after the second. Uehara allowed six hits -- four for singles -- and retired eight of the final 10 hitters he faced.

And even if it wasn't good enough to win, it fit into his recent trends. Uehara has thrown at least six innings and allowed three earned runs or less in five straight starts, but he's 0-2 with three no-decisions in that span. He's also struck out at least five batters and walked one or less in five straight outings.

"I think he's been like that for the majority of the time," said Trembley. "His tempo is just tremendous all the time. The finish on his pitches is very good. He keeps the ball down, he works in and out. He's got a pattern. He mixes it up. He just gives you a chance to win when he pitches, and that's what his job is."

His most recent start, however, is perhaps the most egregious of the bunch.

"Whether I win or lose doesn't matter, as long as the team wins," said Uehara via interpreter Jiwon Bang. "Actually, my body felt really tired today. I have to be happy with the results."

"I just thought he was done -- he had done his job," added Trembley. "We've asked a lot of him each time he's gone out there and I thought he had his pitch count up. He got us to where we needed to go and I didn't see any sense in extending him any further. He's done that in most of his outings. He's gone deep into games."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.