Bags were packed and travel plans had been arranged. The only thing between the Orioles and the All-Star break was their series finale against the Angels in Anaheim on Sunday.
And on a sunny Southern California afternoon, the Orioles played like they where already on vacation.
The Orioles finished baseball’s first half with an all-around uninspired performance, falling to the Angels, 6-0, in front of an announced crowd of 37,108 at Angel Stadium.
The Orioles were shut out in consecutive games for the second time this season. The Mets blanked the Orioles on June 18 and 19 in New York.
The club went into the break losers of 13 of their past 19 games, finishing the unofficial first half in second place in the American League East, a half-game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays
“We’re not swinging the bats well,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “There’s good pitching and that’s why they call it the big leagues. You have to beat good people. I hope these next four days they kind of get away from it and kind get a little tuneup mentally and emotionally as much as anything. This period after the all-star break is going to be some work for us.”
After opening their seven-game West Coast road trip with a series win in Seattle, the Orioles dropped three of four in Anaheim. The only good news: They won’t have to face the Angels again this regular season after dropping seven of nine to the Halos.
“We won a big series to start this road trip off and overcame some pretty good pitching against us,” Showalter said. “We had a chance to split the series today, which would have put us with a pretty good trip. It’s kind of frustrating when you know what a guy is going to do pitching wise and you just can’t make the adjustment.”
Considering the Orioles’ lack of offense, it’s amazing they’re still in second in one of baseball’s most competitive divisions, and tied for what would be the second wild-card spot in the AL. The Orioles (45-40) have been held scoreless in 31 of their past 32 innings, with Steve Pearce’s three-run homer Friday the only offense Baltimore has had in that span.
“I believe it,” said shortstop J.J. Hardy, who is hitless in his past 18 at-bats. “Obviously we haven’t been hitting that well. We’ve struggled and it’s a stat that shows that we haven’t been doing much offensively."
On Sunday, the Orioles had just five hits. Meanwhile, the Angels (48-38) hit four homers off Orioles pitching, including three against Baltimore starterWei-Yin Chen.
Chen lasted just four-plus innings — his shortest outing in 17 starts this season — allowing five runs on five hits with five strikeouts and three walks. It was his third straight losing decision. Five of the Angels’ six runs were scored with two outs, including all three homers off Chen.
“Sometimes I pitch good one game and sometimes I have a horrible game,” Chen said through interpreter Tim Lin. “That’s one thing I want to learn.
“I’m still feeling good on all my pitches, but the most important thing was I couldn’t locate my pitches. That’s why I couldn’t do my job today.”
In the second inning, Erick Aybar hit a two-out solo homer off Chen, taking a first-pitch fastball over the left-field fence.
Rookie All-Star Mike Trout hit a 0-1 slider off the rock fixture to the left of center field in the third. Adam Jones then nearly made a spectacular diving catch of Torii Hunter’s ball, but it popped out of his glove for a double.
Albert Pujols made the Orioles pay, taking a first-pitch curveball from Chen to left for a two-run homer to make it 4-0.
“They squared some balls off on him,” Showalter said. “I think two of their home runs were offspeed. He did a good job with his fastball today. It seemed like pitch slection was a little bit of a challenge today, but he’s pitched great in the first half.”
Mark Trumbo homered off reliever Luis Ayala in the fifth.
A day after being shut out by Angels ace Jered Weaver, 27-year-old journeyman left-hander Brad Mills, called up fromTriple-A before the game, held the Orioles to just three hits over five innings.
Mills, who was making just his 10th big league start, is 3-0 with a 1.56 ERA against the Orioles — he previously beat them twice while pitching for the Blue Jays — and 0-3 with a 10.75 ERA against the rest of baseball as a major leaguer.
Mills retired 11 of the last 12 batters he faced. Robert Andino’s double to lead off the game was the best offense the Orioles had all day. The Orioles reached second base just twice and were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.