Executive vice president Dan Duquette proclaimed Wednesday that the Orioles wouldn't go into sell mode no matter how much they struggle as the non-waiver trade deadline approaches at the end of this month. And after the Orioles' second straight one-run loss to the division-leading New York Yankees on Wednesday night, manager Buck Showalter still insists the American League East is up for grabs.
He might be right because the division is by no means easy to predict, but the Orioles continued to go the wrong way in the AL East standings following their 4-3 loss to the Yankees in front of an announced 43,887 at Yankee Stadium.
With Wednesday's loss to the Yankees — their fifth in six games in the Bronx this season — the Orioles fell a season-worst six games out of first place.
If the Orioles are in win-now mode, winning now might never have been as important. The Orioles (46-47) are now back under .500 and beginning to fade, having lost 11 of their past 15 games.
Showalter said he's not worried about the morale inside his clubhouse, even though the Orioles have found their footing by this point in the season the past three years.
"Not with their pedigree and the things we've been through together,” Showalter said. “It's not a matter of hanging heads, you just get frustrated because you know that you're capable of better and you realize there are games left. Those type of things are for people who live in a minute-to-minute world. We understand the challenge that's ahead of us for a lot of baseball."
The Orioles are 12-16 in one-run games this season.
They finished with just four hits against Yankees pitching Wednesday night, posting just one hit after the third inning. The Orioles have scored three runs or fewer in nine of their past 11 games and 12 of their past 15.
“It's tough,” said first baseman Ryan Flaherty, whose two-run homer was one of the few Orioles bright spots Wednesday. “No one saw it coming this way, but you've got to fight. A lot of guys in this locker room, we've been in this situation before and we've got to fight."
Chris Davis hit his 20th homer of the season, a solo blast off Yankees closer Andrew Miller with two outs in the ninth. Before then, the Orioles' only runs scored on Flaherty's two-run homer off Yankees starter Ivan Nova in the third.
Orioles starter Kevin Gausman, returning to the team's rotation after getting two starts in Triple-A during the All-Star break, recovered from a rocky 29-pitch first inning to give the Orioles six innings.
Still, three of the Yankees' four runs off Gausman came on a pair of homers — Mark Teixeira's two-run blast in the first and Alex Rodriguez's solo shot in the fifth. Both homers came on hanging splitter changeups with Gausman ahead in the count.
“My stuff was pretty good tonight, and I felt comfortable with it,” Gausman said. “Really two splits that were left down the middle of the plate. When you throw that pitch and you leave it pretty center cut, it can get hit a long ways.”
Gausman (1-2) trailed 3-0 just four batters into his outing and five of the first six batters reached base.
Following his leadoff double to right, Jacoby Ellsbury scored the game's first run on Brett Gardner's RBI single up the middle. Teixeira, a Severna Park native, gave the Yankees a three-run lead with a homer to right two batters later.
Gausman hung a 1-2 splitter over the plate to Teixeira, who turned on it and sent it over the right-field fence for his team-high 24th homer of the season.
Gausman settled in after that, at one point retiring eight straight. He also stranded Carlos Beltran on third after Beltran's leadoff double in the fourth.
Rodriguez added to the lead in the fifth, crushing an 0-1 splitter over the Orioles bullpen in left-center field. Rodriguez's 20th homer of the season was also his 3,024th career hit, passing Lou Brock for 24th place on the all-time list.
"He just made some mistakes with the breaking ball,” Showalter said of Gausman. “That's all. But I'm proud of the way he came back and pitched after that. He was very competitive. I've got no problem with pitch selection, just where he got them. He made some really good pitches with it later on. But he kept us in the game. We were engaged in it because he didn't implode."
Flaherty — making a rare start at first base, his first since Sept. 23, 2014 — provided the Orioles with the bulk of their offense on his fourth homer of the season. Flaherty hit his first homer since June 16 on a first-pitch 93-mph fastball from Nova (2-3), sending it into the right-field seats.
Manny Machado hit a one-out double later that inning, but was stranded on third base. The first two batters reached base in the fifth when J.J. Hardy and Flaherty drew back-to-back walks, but the Orioles couldn't score. After Caleb Joseph bunted both runners into scoring position, Machado rocketed a one-hopper to third that Chase Headley backhanded and threw to first. Travis Snider grounded out to second to end the inning.
"Caleb gets a perfect bunt down where he should and Manny hits a ball right on the button,” Showalter said. “Hit it at the wrong place and of course their guy made a good play, too. It was a good read by J.J. A lot of guys take off on that ball. You can't steer the ball. Hopefully, start getting some of those. ... Adam led off with a line drive and just one of those things. It will turn.
“I don't live in that world that we're not getting some breaks and somebody else is. I think that's an excuse. You've got to make them. You've got to make your breaks."
For the second straight night, the Yankees shortened the game with their stellar bullpen. Three relievers — left-hander Chasen Shreve, right-handed setup man Dellin Betances and Miller — combined to retire nine of the 10 batters they faced. Davis' solo homer off Miller was the only Orioles hit in the final six innings.
“You get into that seventh inning and you're down and you've got to fight your way back,” Flaherty said. “Those last two or three guys of theirs are pretty good.”