Hope Fleeting as Losses Pile Up for O's
BALTIMORE – Hope you enjoyed that faint glimmer of optimism while it lasted, Orioles fans.
Crushing, sinking reality – something that has loomed over Baltimore's baseball team for most of the young 2010 season – made a major comeback Wednesday night.
It doesn't look like it'll be going anywhere anytime soon.
Try as they might, the O's couldn't stave off their – gulp – 17th loss of the season, falling 8-3 to the Yankees. So much for any momentum from their first back-to-back wins of the season on Sunday and Tuesday, victories that came at the expense of the two teams they have been trying to catch for more than a decade in Boston and New York.
Losing pitcher Jeremy Guthrie (above) felt compelled to apologize to, well, everyone in his postgame remarks.
"I'm embarrassed by the way the game started, I'm embarrassed by the way I finished," said Guthrie, who gave up seven runs in 4 2/3 innings. "I'm apologetic to the fans who pay money to see the Orioles play and have to watch us lose."
Guthrie also had apologies for his teammates – odd since he's received 13 runs of offensive support in five starts this year – and for Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, who is day-to-day after taking a Guthrie pitch off of his right knee in the second inning. (Posada was replaced by Francisco Cervelli in the bottom half of the inning.)
Question is, with the Orioles winning games at the clip of one per week, what use are apologies when the fan base is flatlining?
It was hardly all bad news for the O's Wednesday. There was Nick Markakis' first home run of the season off Yankees starter CC Sabathia, the first the burly southpaw has allowed to a left-handed hitter in the regular season since Jim Thome last August. Better yet, there was right-handed pitching prospect Chris Tillman throwing a nine-inning no-hitter for Triple-A Norfolk, a promising sign for a team that needs pitching help in a bad way.
The reaction from one frustrated fan sitting just below the press box when Tillman's feat was announced over the public address system in the waning moments of Baltimore's blowout loss:
Yes, there's plenty of bitterness, cynicism and anger to go around at Camden Yards, even with fewer fans than ever to spread it amongst. Not even a visit from the Yankees – and all the interlopers they bring with them – seems to be doing much for attendance. Baltimore is averaging an all-time low – 20,429 fans per game this season – in the 19-year history of Oriole Park.
As indifference sets in among the team's supporters, Baltimore manager Dave Trembley is remaining positive.
"We've got a chance to go out tomorrow and win the series, so that's what our mindset will be," he said.
But with Trembley's job security a source of increasing speculation from outside as the losses pile up, the myriad of problems facing him each day are enough to make one wonder how optimistic he actually is – actually can be – about his team after such a brutal month.
• The Orioles are the third team since the invention of the rule in 1969 to have a different pitcher record a save in their first four wins of the season. They have allowed at least one run in the eighth inning or later in 13 of 21 games this season. Alfredo Simon, practically a conquering hero after getting called up from the minors Tuesday and locking up a save against the Yankees, gave up two unearned runs, two hits and a walk in his lone appearance.
In short, the bullpen is awful, and there is no one Trembley can rely on even in a loose sense.
• The offense, supposedly the team's strength entering the season thanks to a core of young talent headed by Matt Wieters, Adam Jones and Markakis, has been nearly as abysmal, allowing the opposing starting pitcher to go at least six innings in 15 of 21 games this year. They've scored fewer than four runs in 14 games, and lost every single one.
Situational hitting has been a big problem, with the Orioles now 17-for-125 (.136 average) with runners in scoring position in their 17 losses. (They're hitting .354 in those situations in their four victories.)
"We've gotta get some timely hits," opined Markakis.
• Injuries are a factor, with second baseman and leadoff hitter Brian Roberts on the disabled list and no end to his stint in sight.
• So too is the schedule. The Orioles have played just three games against teams with a sub-.500 record all season – Toronto swept those games. There's no letup in sight either. After finishing with the Yankees Thursday, Baltimore hosts Boston, then goes to New York and Minnesota, before returning home to face Seattle and then, mercilessly, the Indians, the next team on the docket with fewer wins than losses.
Trembley won't make excuses.
"I think there has not been enough consistency in either [our pitching or hitting]," he said. "I look at quality at-bats ... and I think there has been some of that, but obviously there hasn't been enough.
"No matter what team we put out there, we have to ... win games."
He stressed the importance of beating the top teams they face, while admitting that they're fighting an uphill battle to do so against the star-laden Red Sox, Yankees and Rays.
"In order for us to get to the next level, we have to beat these top teams," Trembley said. "Find a way to do it."
Red Sox, Yankees, Yokohama Baystars – the Orioles, and the beleaguered fans still sticking with them, will settle for a few wins against just about anyone right now.