- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 1, 2001

DEVIL RAYS 5, ORIOLES 4

BALTIMORE No one exemplifies the Baltimore Orioles' woeful month of July better than right-hander Josh Towers, the American League's Rookie of the Month in June whose season has steadily spiraled downward over the last 31 days, culminating with last night's 5-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

In his shortest start of the year, Towers was tagged for five runs and nine hits in five innings, sending the Orioles to a disheartening loss to the cellar-dwelling Devil Rays at Camden Yards that brought a fitting close to Baltimore's 6-21 July.

One of the hottest pitchers in the league in June posting a sparkling 5-1 record and 1.49 ERA Towers did not make good in his last attempt to secure a win in July. He finished the month with an 0-4 record and 6.47 ERA.

"It looked like he had trouble locating his fastball, which is unusual for him," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "He threw a lot of strikes, probably too many strikes with his fastball."

Four no-hit relief innings from John Wasdin and Jerry Hairston's seventh-inning homer kept the Orioles within reach of Tampa Bay, but Baltimore could not break through against the Devil Rays' pitchers.

Towers (6-6) never quite got things going, surrendering two runs in the top of the second, two again in the fourth and one more in the fifth before departing. His five-inning outing represented the shortest start of his brief career, slightly less than a 5*-inning performance June 24 against Chicago that came to an abrupt end because of an injury.

The Devil Rays jumped on Towers in the second for three straight hits, with a two-run double by Ben Grieve serving as the big blow. Two innings later, Tampa Bay (at 35-71, the majors' worst team) strung together three singles and a sacrifice fly to make it 4-0.

Greg Vaughn's double and Steve Cox's RBI single in the fifth ultimately did in Towers, who was pulled by manager Mike Hargrove after throwing just 72 pitches and failed to pick up a win for the fifth straight start.

"Right now, I'm not making quality first and second pitches," Towers said. "I'm still leaving the ball over the plate a little bit. If I don't put the ball on the corners or get it down, you're probably going to hit somewhere good."

Baltimore's offense didn't do much to aid Towers' cause. Facing Devil Rays right-hander Paul Wilson, who entered the night with a 6.67 ERA and seven losses in 10 decisions, the Orioles were handcuffed save for a three-run fourth inning.

Chris Richard got Baltimore on the scoreboard with a solo homer to center to lead off the fourth, the outfielder's 12th of the season. Jeff Conine and Jay Gibbons followed with a single and a double, respectively.

Cal Ripken then drove both runners in with a ground-ball single up the middle, extending the Iron Man's latest hitting streak to 11 games and moving him past Robin Yount for 15th on the all-time hit list with 3,143.

Wilson (4-7) pitched a perfect fifth, however, before giving way to relievers Travis Phelps, Doug Creek and Esteban Yan. Phelps surrendered a solo homer just inside the left-field foul pole to Hairston in the seventh, but Yan escaped a two-out jam in the bottom of the ninth when left fielder Jason Tyner made a sliding catch of Hairston's sinking liner to record his 13th save.

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