It is nights like Saturday when a 100-loss season not only looks like a strong possibility for these 2011 Orioles, but also seems to be their destiny.
The Orioles had a five-run lead after two innings and a four-run advantage after five before Jeremy Guthrie unraveled in stunning fashion, even by Orioles standards. After he got the first two outs of the sixth, the next six Detroit Tigers reached base, and five runs later, Guthrie was out of the game and one step closer to the embarrassment of a 20-loss season.
The Tigers' five-run sixth-inning rally sent the Orioles and Guthrie to a 6-5 defeat in front of an announced 24,114 at Camden Yards, the woeful club's fifth one-run defeat on this homestand.
“We're very close to winning these games, and obviously it's frustrating, but like I've said many times, nobody feels sorry for you,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “You sleep fast and get a chance to feel better about it tomorrow.”
With the implosion, the Orioles (45-72) have lost three straight games and 12 out of 15. They are just 2-7 on this homestand, which ends today, and they have assured themselves of a 13th consecutive winless series dating to late June, when they took two of three from the Cincinnati Reds.
Beyond that, after starting the season 6-1 and having a 30-31 record June 10, the Orioles are now on pace to finish 62-100. Even in the past 13-plus years of losing seasons, the Orioles have never lost 100 games in a season.
In fact, the Orioles have lost 100 games only twice in franchise history: in 1954, when the Browns moved from St. Louis and became the Orioles, and in 1988, when they lost 107 games.
Guthrie is also headed toward a dubious number. He fell to 5-16 after allowing six earned runs on eight hits and two walks over 5 2/3 innings. He has four more losses than any other pitcher in the American League, and with potentially eight starts remaining, he's well on his way to eclipsing the 20-loss mark. Former Detroit Tigers pitcher Mike Maroth lost 21 games in 2003, and he's the only big league pitcher in the past 30 years to drop 20 or more decisions.
“You can't fear that,” Guthrie said. “I haven't thought about that. I understand that if you execute pitches you can go on a nice streak and win games. That's what I try to do every fifth day.”
There have been times this season in which Guthrie has been victimized by zero run support or poor defense. On Saturday, he had nobody to blame but himself. The Orioles presented their Opening Day starter with a nice lead when they scored five times off Tigers starter Max Scherzer in the bottom of the second. That inning was highlighted by a two-run homer by Vladimir Guerrero and a three-run shot by Blake Davis. The rookie second baseman's first major league home run stood after a review.
“I had no idea, I just saw the guy jump up and it looked like it hit off his glove and bounced back so I kept running around the bases,” Davis said. Guthrie got Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks to ground out on a total of six pitches to start the sixth. However, a double by Magglio Ordonez and a home run by Cabrera — both on first pitches — made it a 5-3 game.
After Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta hit singles, Alex Avila drove a 3-0 pitch into the right-center field gap for an RBI double that made it a one-run game. With Chris Jakubauskas warming in the bullpen, Guthrie surrendered a two-run single to Ryan Raburn that gave the Tigers the 6-5 lead.
In his last three starts, spanning 19 2/3 innings, Guthrie has allowed 17 runs (16 earned) and 24 hits.
“I just kept making the pitches that I was trying to do, and they were able to put good swings on it and were able to string together a big rally,” Guthrie said. “I thought a portion of them were executed pretty well, and they just were able to put a good swing on them anyway, but certainly there were some that caught a lot of the plate as well.”
Scherzer, meanwhile, engineered an amazing turnaround, staying around long enough to get his 12th win. He needed 43 pitches to get out of the second inning and 41 total pitches to navigate through the next four innings.
“It was tough,” Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis said. “You get five runs against a pitcher like that, you feel pretty good about what you've done offensively.”
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