CHICAGO -- Being swept out of the Windy City this weekend by a Chicago Cubs team already auditioning for 2015 roster spots didn’t sit well with Orioles manager Buck Showalter.
By the end of their 2-1 loss to the Cubs on Sunday afternoon, the Orioles had seen enough of historic Wrigley Field. Held hitless by former teammate Tsuyoshi Wada for six innings, they managed just one hit overall on the day.
The Orioles (73-55) left Chicago having scored just one run -- Steve Pearce's seventh-inning solo home run, which broke up Wada’s no-hit bid -- over 16 innings after play resumed Saturday following a three-hour, nine-minute rain delay. They scored just four runs overall in the three-game series.
The Orioles' 39 road wins are still tied with the Kansas City Royals for the most in the American League. But after dropping all three games to the Cubs (58-72), the Orioles suffered their first losing road trip this season. This weekend's series was the first time the Orioles were swept on the road since Sept. 20-23, 2013 at Tampa Bay.
“A lot of teams would have taken that,” Showalter said of club's 4-5 record on the road trip to Cleveland and Chicago, which included a three-game sweep over the Chicago White Sox. “We won’t. Some games were left out there for us.”
It was also the first time the Orioles have been swept since mid-May against the Detroit Tigers and the first time they’ve lost three straight games since dropping four in a row in Milwaukee and Houston on May 27-30. The Orioles' 74-game stretch before suffering three straight losses was the longest in baseball this season.
The Orioles left Baltimore earlier this month with a 7 1/2-game lead over the New York Yankees in the AL East, an advantage that increased to a season-high nine games after their win against the White Sox on Wednesday. Now the club returns to Camden Yards for an 11-game homestand six games up on New York.
"It’s just the grind of a 120-something games,” Showalter said. “I don’t count. I know we have 30-some games left, but yeah, everybody is challenged by it. … It's part of the job description and part of the job environment you play in. Our guys will look at it as a reason to separate themselves a little bit as we go forward I hope. I’m confident with that.”
Ultimately, the Orioles’ fate will be decided at home. They don't have a longer road this season than the one they completed Sunday, and 21 of their last 34 games will be played at Camden Yards, including 21 of the next 27.
"It's been a long 10 days,” Showalter said of the road trip. “We've been traveling. But every team this time of year has some challenges physically and mentally and emotionally. You get on the plane, you head toward some friendly faces and hopefully we can get back to feeling good about postgame. …
"We knew we were going to see three really good, hot pitchers coming in here. Just like we did in Cleveland. It didn't work out for us. I think the key is, you score four runs in 27 innings, you're not going to win too many games."
The Orioles gave Wada a two-year, $8.14 million contract prior to the 2012 season, but the 33-year-old never pitched in a regular season major league game for the Orioles. His 2012 season was ended by Tommy John elbow ligament reconstruction surgery, and he never managed to advance from Triple-A Norfolk last season.
But on Sunday, Wada kept the Orioles off balance, displaying strong command and mixing his fastball and changeup throughout the afternoon.
“He was throwing everything for a strike, and he was working quick,” Pearce said. “He pitched real well today. … We know what our offense is capable of. He pitched well today. He kept us off-balance the whole game. We tried to fight back, but it just wasn’t there today.”
Wada (4-1) said he wanted to show the Orioles a flash of the kind of pitcher he had hoped to be with them.
"I knew a lot of the players on their team, and I feel I let people down by not being able to be a factor on the team,” Wada said through interpreter Ryo Shinkawa. “I tried to be the player who they thought they acquired. I tried to prove that.”
Wada, who signed a minor league deal with the Cubs in the offseason and was making just his eighth major league start, set a career-high with eight strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings. He allowed just one base runner -- a first-inning walk to Adam Jones -- before Pearce hit his 14th homer of the season to open the seventh.
Pearce took a belt-high 0-1 fastball and sent it clear over the left-field stands and onto Waveland Avenue beyond the ballpark, giving the Orioles -- who wore replicas of their 1994 uniforms as part of the Cubs’ 1990s-themed weekend -- their first hit.
Pearce has been one of the Orioles' most productive hitters over the past week. The home run was his third in his past seven games, and he has eight extra-base hits over that stretch.
Wada, 33, would face just one more batter before being removed from the game after throwing 92 pitches, walking off the field to a standing ovation from the announced 32,774 that included a good number of Orioles fans.
Making his first start since being sent to the minor leagues two weeks ago, right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (6-7) held the Cubs to two runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings, marking the sixth time in his last seven major league starts that he has allowed two earned runs or fewer.
"I was really happy about Miguel today,” Showalter said. “He was solid. He'll dwell on how he could have made one run stand up. It's hard to do in this ballpark."
The game was scoreless until the fifth, when Cubs center fielder Arismendy Alcantara took a 2-1 pitch from Gonzalez just over the right-center field fence to give Chicago a 1-0 lead.
“I thought it could be a home run anywhere,” Gonzalez said. “I thought I made a pretty good pitch, sinker away. He put a good swing to it and you tip your hat.”
Anthony Rizzo then hit an RBI double down the left-field line with one out in the sixth inning, driving in Chris Coghlan, who opened the inning with a double off Gonzalez.
After Wada left the game, the Cubs bullpen retired eight of the final 10 Orioles -- including a clean inning from former Orioles reliever Pedro Strop in the eighth. The Orioles’ only two base runners in that span came when Nelson Cruz walked with one out in the seventh and when pinch-hitter Delmon Young was hit by a pitch with two outs in the eighth.
As soon as the game was over, the Orioles said they were putting the series behind them.
“We’ve got a good team,” Pearce said. “This is only a hiccup in our season. We’re going to go home and take care of business, and we’re going to flush this road trip out of our system. We’re going to get ready to play Tampa [Bay] tomorrow.”
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