- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 23, 2004

BALTIMORE — These are new depths of futility, even for the Baltimore Orioles.

Last night they were beaten 10-4 by the New York Yankees behind two homers and five RBI by Alex Rodriguez before 49,696, the largest crowd ever at Camden Yards

The team is collapsing under the weight of high expectations facing first-year manager Lee Mazzilli after the club spent $123million in the offseason on free agents. The Orioles actually might be worse than they were the past six seasons, when they finished fourth each year in the American League East.

Last night’s defeat kept the Orioles tied for the division cellar with the Toronto Blue Jays. The loss was the seventh in eight games and the 15th in 19 games for the Orioles. Baltimore’s 28-38 record is its worst at this point in the season since 1999, and it is 15 games out of first place.

The Yankees have inflicted their own particular pain on the Orioles since 1997, the last year Baltimore had a winning record against New York. Since then, the Orioles are 29-71-1 against the Yankees, and Mazzilli is 0-7 this year against his mentor, New York manager Joe Torre.

Particularly painful for Mazzilli last night was watching four of his pitchers — starter Matt Riley and relievers John Parrish, Rodrigo Lopez and Buddy Groom — combine for 13 walks, two off the club record against Oakland in 2000. Eddy Rodriguez, who finished the game, didn’t walk anyone in two innings.

When asked whether he was “exasperated,” Mazzilli sighed and said, “That’s a good word. Thirteen walks and one hit batter. Not good. … Someone has to step up. We’re beating ourselves is what we are doing walking guys. This can’t go on.”

Rafael Palmeiro, who went hitless in four trips, was cautious in his postgame criticism, trying to spread the blame around.

“We’re struggling all over the place,” he said. But he admitted the pitchers “have to do a little better than 13 walks.”

The Baltimore pitching staff has allowed a league-leading 317 walks, more than 50 ahead of any other team.

The pitching was poor from the start last night. Riley, making his second start since coming off the disabled list after suffering shoulder tightness and making three starts with Class AAA Ottawa, walked Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter to open the game. Then, Rodriguez drove the first pitch he saw over the right-field scoreboard and onto the flag court to put New York ahead 3-0. It was Rodriguez’s 17th home run of the season and the 362nd of his career, moving him ahead of Yankees great Joe DiMaggio on the all-time list.

Former Baltimore ace Mike Mussina started for the Yankees and gave his old team a chance to get back in the game. Brian Roberts and newcomer David Newhan, making his first appearance at Camden Yards after signing as a free agent with Baltimore on Friday, singled to right. Miguel Tejada then blasted a 1-1 Mussina pitch far over the center-field wall for his 11th homer of the season, tying the game 3-3.

But Riley failed to take advantage of his do-over. Tony Clark and Miguel Cairo singled to right to lead off the Yankees’ second, and with one out Jeter sent an 0-2 pitch over the center-field wall for a three-run homer that gave the Yankees a 6-3 lead.

Notes — The Orioles are counting on the acquisition of right-hander Jason Grimsley to take some of the pressure off their beleaguered bullpen.

“He’s a solid bullpen arm, and there will be fewer questions when you have a starter go six innings what do you do the rest of the ballgame,” executive vice president Jim Beattie said.

Grimsley was acquired Monday from the Kansas City Royals for pitcher Denny Bautista, and Grimsley already has agreed to a contract extension through next season. Grimsley, 36, was 3-3 with a 3.38 ERA for the Royals this year and is tied for seventh in the American League with 32 relief appearances. He has a 38-50 record and a 4.76 ERA in 13 major league seasons with five teams.

Bautista, 23, made his major league debut for the Orioles on May25, pitching two innings and allowing eight runs in two relief appearances before being optioned back to Bowie. The addition of Grimsley, along with the move of left-handed starter Eric DuBose to the disabled list with soreness in his left elbow, means Lopez will become a starter for the second time this year beginning with Saturday’s game against the Atlanta Braves.

DuBose will be examined by Dr. James Andrews and could face surgery. Andrews performed labrum and rotator cuff surgery in 2001 on DuBose, who was 4-6 with a 6.39 ERA in 14 starts this season.

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