An Orioles offense failing to fire in almost every sense continued its frustrating run Wednesday night at Miller Park, squandering all kinds of early chances en route to a 4-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers and a three-game sweep that leaves them a season-worst four games below .500.
The shutout loss meant the Orioles (40-44) were held to three runs over the three-game series, and have scored three runs or fewer in seven of their past nine games.
"Just call it what you see it — we’re not playing good baseball," said center fielder Adam Jones, who had one of the team's eight hits. "You can sugarcoat it however you want to. We’re just not playing good baseball. I think a lot of guys know it. You can see frustration on everybody. And it’s all part of it. It sucks, but it’s part of the 162. What we’ve got to do is just continue to grind, continue to put in the work, continue to maintain our routines and at some point in time it’s going to work. Right now, we’re not getting the caroms — everything’s not going our way."
That misfortune began early Wednesday.
They left third baseman Manny Machado on second base after a one-out double in the first inning, and loaded the bases with a double by right fielder Mark Trumbo, an infield single by first baseman Trey Mancini and a walk by catcher Welington Castillo with no outs in the second inning.
But shortstop Rubén Tejada and pitcher Jayson Aquino struck out and left fielder Seth Smith flied out to right field.
It marked the 11th time the Orioles have had the bases loaded with nobody out this season. They’ve scored three runs in those plate appearances, but none of them via a hit.
Manager Buck Showalter pointed to Tejada's at-bat as the most important there.
"It’s always the first at-bat in those situations," Showalter said. "We’ve got to put the ball in play there. Once you get to the pitcher’s spot, and then they have a shot at getting out of it. And Seth just missed the ball. He got under it a little bit and didn’t quite square up. But once we don’t get anything done in the eight hole, it opens up the possibility."
Said Jones: "We had bases loaded tonight and couldn’t even squeeze a run by. Most of the time, we at least squeeze one in. It’s just the times that we’re in right now."
That wasn’t the end of the frustration, though. A single by Jones and a walk by Trumbo put two on with two out in the third, but a hit-and-run play with Mancini at the plate was foiled in a way only a struggling team could have it backfire. Trumbo and Jones appeared to be off with the pitch, and second baseman Jonathan Villar was running toward the bag, only to have the ball stung up the middle hit him. He corralled it for the final out of the inning.
After that right-hander Matt Garza rebounded to retire 10 of 12 batters and worked 6 1/3 shutout innings. He gave way to former Orioles reliever Oliver Drake (Navy), who combined with Jared Hughes and Corey Knebel on an eight-hit shutout. The Orioles ended the day 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and with 10 men left on base.
Aquino ambushed: Left-hander Aquino caught the Brewers a bit off balance in the first three innings, with the only damage a bloop leadoff double into short left field by third baseman Travis Shaw to open the second inning. Shaw scored when a short hop got past Machado with two outs in the inning.
But once the fourth inning started, the Brewers began to like what they saw and swing at everything. Left fielder Ryan Braun lined the first pitch of the inning off the right-field wall, Shaw grounded out on the first pitch he saw, and then right fielder Domingo Santana sneaked a ground ball past Tejada on the first pitch he saw to score Braun. Four pitches later, center fielder Keon Broxton hit a two-run home run to center field to put the Orioles down 4-0.
"On that particular inning, I missed a pitch and the result was a home run, so I just missed a pitch right there," Aquino said through interpreter Ramón Alarcón.
Said Showalter: "It’s hard to fault anything. He should have given up two runs. And I think he had the guy picked off second. He pitched well."
Starting on short rest in place of Chris Tillman, Aquino went 5 1/3 innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on five hits with seven strikeouts and no walks.
Britton’s return: After Miguel Castro recorded the final two outs of the sixth inning, the Orioles got their wish in being able to ease returning closer Zach Britton back into major league action after two months out with a forearm strain.
Despite a lengthy rehabilitation program, Britton took a bit to settle in, bouncing his first two pitches before shortstop Orlando Arcia lined his third pitch up the middle and off his glove for a deflected putout by Machado. Britton allowed a grounder up the middle for a one-out single, then Machado made two putouts around a two-out walk to end a scoreless 19-pitch inning.
"It’s been a while since I pitched in a big league game," Britton said. "Definitely a little nervous and overthrew some pitches, but I just need to get my timing back and everything. But physically I feel great. That’s the best thing, and now it’s about going out and making pitches. The more innings I get under my belt, the more comfortable you get back up here. It’s just a different type of game. It’s a good offensive team, so as we go along, just get a little sharper command-wise and get back to what I’m used to doing.”
Said Showalter: "We wanted to get [Britton] out there and not have him sit around. He ended up with a zero, and I think it’ll get better from there."