Much to the chagrin of Birdland, the O’s appear to have fallen into one of their signature team-wide slumps at exactly the wrong time. While the other American League contenders are all surging towards the finish line – the Yankees have lost two of three but are 8-2 over their last 10; the Angels have won four in a row, and even the Tampa Bay Rays (who we all wrote off for dead a week ago) have won six in a row and are still lurking around in the Wild Card standings – the Birds have dropped three of four after winning a season-high six in a row last week.
Though they have still won seven of ten overall, Buck’s club needs to turn things around here in their final home stand of 2012, lest the last six months of work all be erased in a single week.
I said on Monday that anything less than three of four from the Toronto Blue Jays would have to be considered unacceptable. Well, that ship has sailed – now the only question is “how unacceptable will things be?” The Birds need a win tonight to manage a split of the four game set.
After a relatively comfortable (by their standards) 4-1 win in the first game of the doubleheader Monday, the O’s have spent the last two games making poor Blue Jays pitchers look like aces. Ricky Romero had lost 13 consecutive starts dating back to June, but escaped bases-loaded jam after bases-loaded jam on Monday night with minimal damage, ultimately handing the Birds a 9-5 defeat.
By my count, the Orioles loaded the bases FOUR TIMES on Monday night, and got a total of two runs combined out of all four chances.
The word unacceptable again comes to mind.
Tuesday night, they made Aaron Laffey (and then four Jays’ relievers) look like Justin Verlander. Laffey, who was unable to escape the third inning in his previous two starts, made O’s hitters think that grounding out to shortstop was the end-all be-all of their existences. The Cumberland, Maryland native got into the sixth inning on something ridiculous like 60 pitches before giving way to the bullpen.
Despite a strong start from Joe Saunders, the O’s were shut out at home for just the second time all year – the first coming at the hands of the aforementioned Verlander.
The O’s had only six hits, and just one extra base hit, which didn’t come until Chris Davis doubled in the ninth. Just to add insult to injury, the O’s loaded the bases down four in the bottom of the ninth, only to once again come up completely empty.
The sky hasn’t completely fallen. The O’s are still two games up on Anaheim in the loss column. They’re still just 1.5 back of New York for the division. They’re still calculated to have a 91.7% chance of making the postseason.
But they need to start hitting.
They get the chance tonight, as Carlos Villanueva takes the hill for Toronto. Carlos has pitched to a 7.36 ERA over his past four starts, and gave up seven runs in just 2.1 innings to the pathetic Tampa offense in his last start.
Let’s get the bats out and salvage the four game split.