- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2001


BALTIMORE Mike Hargrove knew there would be days like this, which may explain why the Baltimore Orioles manager was far more upbeat after yesterday's 11-5 loss to the Cleveland Indians than he was the night before following a 4-1 defeat.

"You don't like to lose, don't get me wrong," Hargrove said after his team suffered its first three-game sweep at home by the Indians since 1988. "But there are certain losses that just eat at you, and certain losses that you could just say, 'OK, we lost like that, but we've got this to look forward to.' … I thought there were a lot of positive things that happened to us today, other than the fact that we got our lunch handed to us."

The positive tone emanating from the Orioles' clubhouse at Camden Yards wasn't there Wednesday night, when Hargrove held a 10-minute, closed-door meeting with his team in the wake of that loss. He felt his players might have been focusing too much on off-the-field issues, leading to their lackluster play in recent days.

"I think I reached [that point Wednesday] night," Hargrove said. "We addressed some issues after the game, and I thought our focus and our intensity today was a lot better directed and better-placed. [On Wednesday] night, we gave up those two runs [in the third inning], and the air went right out of our balloon. The energy left our bench. Today, after we gave up two runs the way we did, it didn't happen. We got our butts kicked [Wednesday] night and today. But today left a better taste. Today positive steps were taken."

Hargrove was referring to the first inning, when the Orioles allowed the Indians to score two runs by outhustling them but atoned in the bottom of the inning.

Kenny Lofton led off with a single to right, stole second off Baltimore starter Chuck McElroy, then took third on one of two passed balls by Brook Fordyce. Jolbert Cabrera bounced to third baseman Cal Ripken, who briefly looked Lofton back to the bag, then threw too high to first baseman David Segui. Lofton scored easily, and Cabrera coasted into second base because no Oriole was covering. Cabrera later scored on a sacrifice fly by Ellis Burks that put Cleveland up 2-0.

Unlike the night before, when the Orioles never escaped an early hole, they responded with a two-run first inning of their own. Singles by Brady Anderson, Jerry Hairston and Jeff Conine and an RBI groundout by Mike Bordick tied the game. The rally ended when David Segui struck out looking at a questionable strike three and Conine was thrown out trying to steal second on the pitch.

Segui, who has struck out looking six times this season, glared at home plate umpire Ron Kulpa, gestured where he thought the pitch crossed the plate and was ejected.

"I thought David had a legitimate beef," Hargrove said. "I thought that ball was low. Obviously the umpire didn't. With where we were at in the inning, it was an important call, because it turned into a double play."

The Orioles didn't recover. McElroy, making the third start in his attempted conversion from career reliever, served up a solo homer to Marty Cordova in the fourth and gave up two singles in the fifth before he was pulled.

Rookie Chad Paronto, who tossed two scoreless innings in his debut Wednesday, was drilled this time around, surrendering a three-run homer to Cordova his second in as many innings that broke the game open.

In his three starts, veteran left-hander McElroy has failed to last more than five innings. He walked off the field yesterday with an 0-1 record, a 6.92 ERA and questions about how many more chances he'll be given as a starter.

"If [Hargrove] comes in there tomorrow and says he wants to put me back in the bullpen, I have no problem with that because you know what we gave it a try," McElroy said.

There is growing reason to believe a decision will be made sooner rather than later, though Hargrove has yet to commit to anything.

"I think that's a legitimate question, and it will be addressed at some point in time before Chuck's next start," he said. "It's a question I would ask, but it's a question you wouldn't answer if you were me."

Baltimore had no success for the second straight time against Indians rookie left-hander C.C. Sabathia (2-0). The 20-year-old hurler, who stands 6-foot-7, scattered three hits after the first inning before leaving after six. The Orioles, who are four games under .500 for the first time this season, did manage to score three runs off Paul Shuey in the ninth, though the game was already well out of hand.

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