PITTSBURGH — With Blake Davis’s decisive error in the fifth inning on Wednesday, the Baltimore Orioles had their defining play on a highly disappointing road trip, and an easy scapegoat for another avoidable loss.
However, pinning it all on Davis’s gaffe, which brought home the tying and winning runs in a 5-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates in front of an announced 19,418 at PNC Park, only neglects the rest of the Orioles’ problems.
This is a team that doesn’t get consistent enough starting pitching, only has three or four reliable relievers, doesn’t get enough hits with runners in scoring position, plays awful defense at the most inopportune times and is so thin depth-wise that Davis was making his big league debut at a position he hasn’t played all season.
All of those factors were felt here — where the Orioles lost two of three games to a team the players felt they should have handled — and on this road trip when the Orioles combined to go 3-6 against the Pirates, Washington Nationals and Toronto Blue Jays. All of those teams entered Wednesday’s action with sub-.500 records.
“I definitely feel like it was a missed opportunity,” said Orioles starter Zach Britton, who allowed five runs (three earned) over six innings in absorbing his fifth loss. “With the division that we’re in, we want to be able to compete and we have to come out and take two of three from these teams. They’ve been playing really well, but we’ve been hitting well enough and pitching well enough to beat these teams.”
Give credit to Britton, a 23-year-old who regularly holds himself accountable and always seems to have a firm grip on reality, for acknowledging what has become painfully obvious. The last 41 / 2 weeks was considered the most forgiving portion on the Orioles’ schedule. With Wednesday’s loss — their eighth in the last 11 games — the Orioles (33-39) are back to a season-worst six games under .500.
They play their next seven series, or 23 consecutive games, against teams with winning records. That includes 14 straight contests from July 4-20 against the three teams — the Texas Rangers, Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians — currently leading their respective divisions in the American League.
“If you dwell on it between here and the plane, you can’t live in that world,” said Orioles Manager Buck Showalter. “I can come back on some games that didn’t look like they presented a good option for us, but we ended up winning those games. We won one game in each city that we went into and we’ll try to learn from it.
“If you stay in that woe is me mentality, nobody feels sorry for you. You’ve got to pick yourself up. We had some good things happen on this trip. We swung the bats well. Some guys are giving us a chance. We’re fighting through some health things.”
Showalter has never used injuries as an excuse even though it seems the Orioles send one pitcher to see team orthopedist John Wilckens per week. But the team continues to feel the sting of some of the personnel losses, none more so than the absence of second baseman and leadoff man Brian Roberts.
With Roberts in a nearby hotel after a visit with concussion specialist Michael Collins on Tuesday, second baseman Robert Andino stranded six base runners in the Orioles’ 9-3 loss. Wednesday, Davis, who last played second base in 2010, went 0 for 4 with a strikeout in his debut, and then made the costly error on Josh Harrison’s groundball when it appeared Britton would get out of the fifth inning with the Orioles’ 4-3 lead intact.
“I misread it,” said Davis, playing for the first time since his contract was selected from Class AAA Norfolk last Saturday. “I thought it was going to skip up and bounce up a little bit higher and it stayed down on me. I need to make that play. I feel terrible.”
— Baltimore Sun