ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — With the Baltimore Orioles already entrenched in their early-season tailspin at the beginning of this month, General Manager Dan Duquette placed a Memorial Day timetable on determining the team’s ability to win in 2018.
Now, the Orioles approach Memorial Day on Monday having done little to improve the perception of the team from four weeks ago — that they are a wildly inconsistent club struggling to put together any winning momentum, thus further burying themselves in the American League East cellar.
They went into Sunday’s series finale at Tropicana Field with the opportunity to collect their second road series win of the season, but with an 8-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, the Orioles (17-36) recorded their eighth nonwinning road series out of nine this season as their majors-worst road record fell to 7-23.
The Orioles reach Memorial Day having lost more than twice as many games as they’ve won this season, buried 19 games back of the division-leading Boston Red Sox and eight games behind Tampa Bay just for fourth place.
The club’s decision-making brass still might not be ready to tear this team apart just yet — still uncommitted to trading pieces from a group of pending free agents, including superstar Manny Machado, who were core pieces of the team’s success from 2012 to 2016. Instead, the franchise might be gearing for a July 31 sale at the trade deadline. Regardless, evaluation time is approaching.
“I hope guys aren’t worrying about that,” first baseman Chris Davis said. “It’s hard enough as it is to go about your business every day and try to get a win at the big league level. I hope guys aren’t worried about the future. I want them focused on this club, the things we’re doing well, not the things that we’re doing wrong, and trying to go out there and get a win. This game is hard, whether you’re a 10-year vet or you’ve been in the big leagues 10 days. You’re constantly making adjustments. That’s what it’s about. And for us as a team, we have to stick together. We have to stay close and continue to pick each other up.”
But this three-game series at Tampa Bay put the Orioles’ inadequacies on display. They scored just three runs in the first two games of the series, then scored just as many in a heady three-run first inning Sunday that showed their promise. Then right-hander Kevin Gausman — who has been the team’s most consistent starter this season — not only failed to hold that lead but couldn’t get out of the third inning while being lit up for a season-high seven runs.