Other than All-Star catcher Matt Wieters, the Orioles enjoyed three glorious days away from baseball. They took quick vacations, spent time with family and friends, and frequented malls, restaurants and water parks.
But they could delay the inevitable for only so long before the reality of what has become of this baseball season took hold. That cold reminder came just five pitches into the Orioles' second half when Cleveland Indians All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera launched Jeremy Guthrie's pitch deep onto the flag court for a solo home run.
The Orioles' post-All-Star-break schedule began much like the first half ended, with an early deficit turning into an 8-4 loss to the Indians before an announced 22,780 at Camden Yards on Thursday night.
"That definitely makes it a little tougher being down early, but we have to go out there and battle and score runs for these guys," said third baseman Mark Reynolds, who went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. "We still have a job to do. They're not going to cancel the rest of the season. We have to come out and keep playing and let the previous night go, and come in with a fresh start and a good attitude."
With manager Buck Showalter watching from a suite behind home plate as he served his one-game suspension after Sunday's ejection-marred loss to the Boston Red Sox, the Orioles dropped their eighth straight game, tying their longest losing streak of the season. They have been outscored 70-28 during skid.
They have lost 13 of their past 14 games, falling to 36-53 on the season. They are also 0-4 this year against the first-place Indians and have been outscored 28-11 by them.
Nick Markakis drove in the Orioles' first two runs with a single in the third that cut the Indians' lead to 4-2, and Derrek Lee and Blake Davis added RBIs in the sixth, but Cleveland starter Justin Masterson (8-6) was pretty much in control en route to the win.
"I think it was good for everybody to get a break from the game," Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said. "I know we didn't end the first half on a good note with the seven games lost straight. But sometimes you have to get away from the game to let your mind go. I think we all have the proper mindset right now. It just didn't happen."
And it probably won't until the Orioles are able to get a quality start from their beleaguered rotation. The Orioles pitching staff has given up four runs or more in 19 straight games and eight or more in six of their past eight. It also has surrendered 10 or more hits in nine straight games.
In allowing six runs, five hits and four walks over five-plus innings, Guthrie fell to 3-13 on the season. No other American League pitcher has more than 10 losses. Guthrie is the first pitcher to lose 13 games this early in the season since Jeremy Bonderman and Mike Maroth both did it for the 2003 Detroit Tigers team that lost 119 games.
"I'm just not throwing the ball well. I haven't been going deep into games for a while," said a despondent Guthrie, who was beaten for the second time this season by the team that waived him before the 2007 season. In two starts against the Indians this year, Guthrie is 0-2 and has allowed 12 earned runs, 15 hits and five walks in 10 innings.
"I felt like I wasn't able to throw the ball where I wanted to," he said. "I wasn't able to get ahead [much] in the count, or when I fell behind, I had a really hard time throwing strikes and getting back into it. It's tough to put your team in the hole like that."
Guthrie couldn't contain the top four hitters in the Indians' lineup, as Michael Brantley, Cabrera, Travis Hafner and Carlos Santana combined to go 8-for-17 with five runs, two doubles, two homers and seven RBIs. Cabrera and Carlos Santana (a two-run shot) hit homers in the first inning, and then Santana made it 4-0 in the third with an RBI double.
The Indians (48-42) blew a 4-2 game open in the sixth, scoring four times off three pitchers. Guthrie failed to retire the first two batters he faced. Mark Hendrickson relieved him and allowed a sacrifice fly to Travis Buck and an RBI single to Brantley. Jason Berken followed and gave up back-to-back RBI singles to Cabrera and Hafner.
"We couldn't get through the sixth inning, and it really hurt," Orioles acting manager John Russell said. "When you're facing a pretty good starter, you can't give up those runs late. We couldn't stay away from the big inning in the sixth, and then you've got to keep battling back after that. But we've got to take it in stride. We've got to go out and continue to compete and get on a roll, and it's going to start with the guys on the mound."
In his past five starts, Guthrie, who was pitching on three days' rest after his relief outing Sunday in Boston, is 1-4 with a 7.45 ERA and has allowed 37 hits and 17 walks in 29 innings. His recent efforts certainly haven't helped the Orioles' cause if they decide to trade him before the July 31 nonwaiver deadline.
It marked the fifth time in eight starts that Guthrie has been unable to go at least six innings, and it continued the trend of early exits by Orioles starters. Over the past 17 games, Oriole starters are 2-12 with a 9.64 ERA and have completed six innings just twice.