The tarp officially went on the field at 8:47 last night, and with the way things have been going this month, the Orioles probably wouldn't mind if it stayed on until Opening Day 2009 at Camden Yards.
That likely won't happen, but the Orioles at least got a three-inning reprieve from another nine-inning loss. They fell, 3-0, to the Toronto Blue Jays last night at Camden Yards in a game that was called in the top of the seventh inning because of heavy rains after a delay of 1 hour, 5 minutes.
It counts as the Orioles' 10th straight loss, their longest losing streak since they dropped 12 consecutive games Aug. 14-28, 2004. The Orioles (67-92) have dropped 29 of the their past 35 games and will need to take their final two games this weekend to tie their win total from last season. Considering they have just two wins since Sept. 13, that might be a tough task, especially because they continue to make little-known pitchers look like American League Cy Young Award contenders.
Before an announced 17,716, the Orioles managed just four hits over six innings against right-hander Scott Richmond, who had pitched the previous three seasons with the Edmonton Cracker Cats of the independent Golden Baseball League. It was the seventh time during this losing streak the Orioles have scored three runs or fewer as the finish line clearly cannot come quickly enough for a lineup that carried the club for stretches but appears just about out of gas.
"He just threw strikes, [had a] good two-seamer away," Orioles outfielder Luke Scott said about Richmond. "He kind of mixed in his breaking ball. We hit some balls hard, just right at people. Not very good conditions for the ball carrying today, either. But he did a good job, threw strikes."
The Orioles' best chance for a run came in the sixth inning when Nick Markakis and Melvin Mora hit back-to-back two-out singles, bringing Aubrey Huff to the plate. The Orioles' top RBI man fouled out to end the home team's threat.
"We just didn't have any offense," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "We had one real chance there with two outs and back-to-back two-out hits, but we didn't push anything across. Unfortunately, it ended that way and then the rain came."
Chris Waters (3-5), who pitched a shutout against the Blue Jays 10 days earlier, was credited with a second straight loss, though he did turn in a quality start in what essentially amounts to his latest audition for the 2009 rotation.
"He'll have to come to spring training and earn that. Whatever role he has, that will be determined," Trembley said. "All of us will get together and try to fit people into what we have."
The score was tied at zero through five innings, and Waters' scoreless streak over the Blue Jays had reached 14. But in the sixth, Waters allowed a leadoff single to Jose Bautista and walked Alex Rios on four pitches. Waters took a big step toward escaping the jam by getting Vernon Wells to ground into a double play, started smoothly by first baseman Oscar Salazar.
However, Waters couldn't completely wriggle out of the jam, allowing an RBI double to Scott Rolen that gave the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead.
Rolen's shot to the gap bounced off the warning track and over the wall, which saved the Orioles a run because Rios would have scored from first base had a ground-rule double not been declared. Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis then made sure that it stayed a one-run game with a diving catch on Travis Snider's liner to end the inning.
Waters wouldn't stay in the game much longer. Curtis Thigpen led off the seventh with a solo homer, the first of his career. John McDonald and Marco Scutaro followed with singles, putting men on the corners with still nobody out and ending Waters' night.
Lance Cormier came in and surrendered an RBI groundout to Bautista, a former Oriole, before the rains came and the umpiring crew called for the tarp.
It alleviated the Orioles' misery, if only for an hour. The second game of the series - and the penultimate game of the season - is scheduled for 7:05 tonight.