The Orioles offense has gone cold at pretty much the worst possible time.
After scrounging together four hits and only scoring on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to continue a fallow homestand with a 5-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox, manager Buck Showalter conceded that the league’s most powerful offense is struggling precisely because it knows there’s that potential in them every swing.
“Our guys are really pushing,” Showalter said. “They're pushing. Sometimes, you can almost want something too much and you can't take that away from them. The want-to is always there for our guys, and now, it can be a — I think roadblock is too strong a word — it can be a deterrent. You get into a situation like this where they know what's going on with the math of the season. So it's tough to say, ‘Don't care,’ OK?”
The math is simple. The Orioles came home for this essential 11-game homestand riding high, and trailing the first-place Red Sox by just a game. Seven games into their last regular-season stint at Camden Yards, they’re 2-5 and have scored 20 runs with just 13 extra-base hits. It’s an unprecedentedly low level of production for a team that has averaged 4.7 runs per game at Camden Yards.
The difference, Showalter said, is that they’re running out of time for their “We’ll get ‘em next time” mentality to take hold.
“We talk about it every day,” Showalter said. “When there's more season left, you know someone's going to pay down the line. We've seen that. You’ve seen that. But when you're in a situation like this, nobody feels sorry for you. They want to step on your neck while you're down.”
Both Showalter and first baseman Chris Davis alluded to a meeting the players called before batting practice Wednesday, with Davis saying the message was to simply let go a little bit and have fun.
“I think we’re really just getting in a position where we’re trying to do too much,” Davis said. “You start out the game and it takes you a few innings to score a run or to scratch out a few hits. The closer it gets to the ninth inning, the more pressure you feel as an offense, and the more you kind of push, and that’s what we’ve been doing the past few nights, just pressing too much. We talked about it earlier today. We need to go out there and do what we do best, and just relax a little bit.”
It’s been a constant struggle the team has dealt with all year. Home runs, more often than not, are the product of a smart approach from the cast of powerful hitters. The result of a plate appearance in which a player has a smart approach, waits for his pitch, and pounces on it is, occasionally, a home run. The result of a plate appearance in which a player tries to hit a home run rarely is.
Compounded by a run in which they’ve faced a formidable starting pitcher every night, the Orioles find themselves in a somewhat dire situation at the plate too often.
“I think it really has more to do with the game that we’re in,” Davis said. “When you’re facing a good team and a good pitching staff and a good offense that you know can score runs and you’re pitching staff is doing their job and holding them down, you want to score runs. And I think the longer it goes without pushing a guy across, I think we try to do too much and really get out of our game plan.”