- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 2, 2002

BOSTON Considering all the trouble they've had with Pedro Martinez lately, the Baltimore Orioles should have been encouraged by knocking the Boston Red Sox ace out of last night's game after five innings.

Too bad they did everything else in a decidedly discouraging manner and thus turned what could have been a rare victory over the three-time Cy Young Award winner into an ugly 15-3 loss at Fenway Park that left onlookers scrounging the record books in search of previous marks of futility.

Where to begin? How about the 12-run loss the Orioles' most lopsided since a 14-0 defeat by the Seattle Mariners on Sept.16, 2000?

How about Josh Towers' disastrous relief outing: five innings, 10 earned runs, 11 hits? It was the first time an Orioles pitcher had been tagged for double digits since Mike Mussina gave up 10 runs at Tampa Bay on April21, 1999. Even more disturbing, it was the most runs a Baltimore relief pitcher had ever given up in one appearance.

And how about the ignominy of walking off the field one out prematurely, as Towers and catcher Brook Fordyce did in the eighth inning?

"It was one of those days," said Towers, who saw his ERA skyrocket from 5.64 to 7.90. "I've never had one before."

The Orioles' second loss in a row after four straight wins was all the more difficult to swallow because they actually put a slight dent into Martinez's recent string of domination. Having previously totaled one unearned run and four hits in 13 innings against the Boston right-hander this season, the Orioles picked up three runs and five hits (including Tony Batista's seventh homer) in five innings last night.

Nonetheless, the Red Sox led 9-3 after five innings, a sizeable cushion that allowed manager Grady Little to pull Martinez (4-0) without fear of costing his ace the victory.

"I don't care who's pitching against you," Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove said, "if your starting pitcher doesn't keep you in the ballgame, you've got no chance."

The Orioles' starter, rookie right-hander Sean Douglass, did not give his teammates a chance, failing to make it through four innings for the second time in as many starts. Hargrove had hoped that Douglass' first outing of the season three runs, six walks in 3⅔ innings Friday at Kansas City was an aberration and not an indication of the 23-year-old's true ability.

After Douglass (0-1) surrendered five runs (four earned) and five hits in three innings last night, the Orioles aren't so sure what is real and what is an aberration about the hurler or, for that matter, about the fast-fading Towers.

"It's too early to say," Hargrove said of both pitchers' future status on the Orioles' roster. "We'll certainly talk about it the next couple of days."

Douglass was one of the organization's brightest young pitching prospects, but in two starts since being called up to replace injured right-hander Jason Johnson, he has posted an unsightly 9.45 ERA and nine walks.

"Every year I've had a slow start," said Douglass, whose next appearance is tentatively scheduled for Monday against the Cleveland Indians. "But you can't have that [in the major leagues]."

Towers' fall from grace since a spectacular debut last summer is even more troubling. Banished to the bullpen after allowing eight homers in three starts, the right-hander looked worse as a reliever last night.

Towers continues to throw strikes (70 of his 90 pitches crossed the plate), but continues to be haunted by the long ball, serving up three more homers to raise his season total to a major league-leading 11.

Manny Ramirez started things off by slicing a two-run homer (his second of the night) around the short right-field foul pole in the fourth. Trot Nixon then led off the eighth with a controversial homer that was nearly caught by right fielder Jay Gibbons but was touched by a fan. First-base umpire John Shulock at first ruled the play a live ball, then changed his call to a home run.

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