It's only June. And it might be over.
It won't be easy, now that the Orioles have lost Kevin Brown and Ben McDonald.
Brown is out a minimum of four to six weeks with a dislocated joint in his right index finger. McDonald joined him on the disabled list after last night's 4-1 loss to Boston with an inflamed tendon in his right shoulder.
The revised rotation is Mike Mussina, Scott Klingenbeck, Jamie Moyer, Arthur Rhodes and a Rochester pitcher to be named.
Mike and the Marginals.
Not exactly Palmer, McNally, Cuellar and Dobson.
At least the Orioles weren't desperate enough to activate Sid Fernandez from the DL.
El Sid as El Savior?
No wonder general manager Roland Hemond, assistant GM Frank Robinson, farm director Syd Thrift and assistant farm director Don Buford entered the clubhouse grim-faced after last night's game.
The four met with manager Phil Regan, then decided to replace Brown and McDonald with Armando Benitez and Jimmy Myers.
The Orioles don't need another starter until Tuesday. They'll either make a trade or recall another pitcher by then.
Make a trade?
Brown, McDonald, Fernandez, Mark Eichhorn -- the Orioles now have more than $12 million worth of pitching on the DL. The San Diego Padres' payroll at the start of last season was $12.5 million.
To think, this series began with such promise. Four games against first-place Boston. Brown vs. Roger Clemens. A chance to cut into the Red Sox's eight-game lead.
Won't happen, unless the Orioles win the next three.
Won't happen, unless Mussina, Klingenbeck and Rhodes shut down the second-highest scoring team in the league.
"They need more than three," Jose Canseco sneered before the game. "They need 'em all."
That's out of the question now.
Hootie and the Blowfish attended last night's game.
Can Hootie pitch?
Joe Smith will attend tomorrow night's game.
Joe! Joe! Joe!
Tonight, Mussina faces Zane Smith. Should the Orioles lose -- and Mussina has been rocked in his last two starts -- they will fall 10 games out of first place.
Since 1910, only 17 teams that trailed by 10 games came back to win a title. The most recent was the '93 Braves. The '89 Blue Jays also did it, catching the Orioles.
Even with Brown and McDonald, the Orioles' chances would be improbable. Without them, they're next to impossible.
"Another pitcher has to come in and do the job," shortstop Cal Ripken said. "Somebody has to fill the void if we're going to catch them."
Alas, Klingenbeck (2-1) is the only pitcher above .500.
The Red Sox arrived at Camden Yards in a 4-9 rut. Everyone expects them to choke, or at least play more like an average
team. But seriously, who's going to catch them?
Boston ranks sixth in the league with a 4.49 ERA. The other four AL East teams are all above 5.00. Chicago and Minnesota are the only clubs that are worse.
Yesterday told you all you needed to know about this pathetic race. The Blue Jays lost to Milwaukee, 9-0. And the Orioles lost Brown on a night Clemens started looking like the Roger of old.
Clemens allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings, his longest outing since coming off the disabled list on June 2. Remember, the Red Sox built their lead without him. And now that he's back, a long losing streak is unlikely.
We know the Red Sox haven't won since 1918. We know this team isn't that good. And we know manager Kevin Kennedy senses the tension mounting.
But the Tigers, of all teams, now stand the best chance of making a run at Boston -- and they're six games out. The Orioles have now lost nine of 11. And to think, they might have peaked.
Brown suffered his injury when he made a leaping, bare-handed stab at a line drive by Troy O'Leary. What was he thinking? The ball was hit so hard, it ricocheted off his hand into the outfield.
One criticism of Brown in Texas was that he too often let the emotions get the best of him. The Rangers warned him not to make bare-handed plays. But Brown, an excellent fielder and intense competitor, wouldn't stop.
Last night's play can't simply be dismissed as a natural reaction -- Brown tried the same at least a half-dozen other times this season.
"I was trying to stop the ball," Brown said. "What else would I be doing?"
Letting it go would have been helpful.
Then again, maybe it's just one of those years.
It's only June.
And the Orioles look done.