The players won't say it, and their superstitious veteran manager won't let himself entertain the thought for a fleeting moment, but the truth is the Orioles are facing a hapless Philadelphia Phillies club that is struggling in every phase, and they must take advantage of that.
So far, so good.
Playing each other for the third straight night but first at Citizens Bank Park since 2009, the Orioles beat the Phillies again, this time 6-4 thanks to a four-run fourth inning and solo homers by Travis Snider and scalding newcomer Chris Parmelee.
The blasts gave the Orioles 10 home runs in a span of 13 innings against Philadelphia pitching, which included a franchise-record eight Tuesday night at Camden Yards.
The Orioles (34-31) have won 11 of 13 games, including three in a row against Philadelphia by a combined score of 29-7. Meanwhile, the Phillies are owners of baseball's worst record (22-45), have lost 19 of 22 and nine straight — the franchise's worst skid since dropping 11 in a row in September 1999.
“Every time you're going against a team that's struggling, you have to keep pressing the pedal, the gas pedal, and we don't want to let it [up],” said Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez (5-3), who allowed four runs (three earned) in 6 2/3 innings for his second straight win. “You have to go out there with everything you have. We've been there. We know what it is to be struggling. It's hard to get out of that situation. As an opposing team, you have to go with everything you have and don't give them a chance.”
It has gotten bad enough in the City of Brotherly Love that several Phillies fans shouted into the lower-level press box to put pressure on team ownership to fire either general manager Ruben Amaro, manager Ryne Sandberg or both.
One hot rumor is that former Orioles top executive Andy MacPhail could come out of retirement to try to the right the Phillies ship as team president the way he did with the Orioles from 2007 to 2011.
On Wednesday, before an announced 26,162 — many wearing orange — the Orioles were again willing participants in the Phillies' implosion, though Philadelphia's late run proved a point made continually by Orioles manager Buck Showalter: Just because a team is struggling doesn't mean it isn't dangerous.
"It's just a matter of time. We all know that. Somebody's going to catch them when they get it going,” Showalter said. “Our goal is to try to make it one more day.”
The Phillies were down five runs in the fifth, but brought the potential game-winning run to the plate in the bottom of the ninth in outfielder Jeff Francoeur, who was forced to pitch in Tuesday's 19-3 blowout.
But Orioles closer Zach Britton got Francoeur to bounce into a double play to end the night in a tidy 2 hours, 34 minutes.
“This is a good team. This is a great team,” Jimenez said of his resurgent club that remains in third place, two games behind the Tampa Bay Rays. “We have a good lineup. We have good pitching. We have great defense. It's a matter of putting everything together, and we've been able to do that over the last week or so.”
Parmelee, the third batter of the game, gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead with his third home run and fifth hit in seven at-bats as an Oriole. The 27-year-old left-handed hitter could have opted out of his minor league contract Monday, but the Orioles chose to promote him from Triple-A Norfolk instead.
So far, the decision looks brilliant. Parmelee, a 2006 first-round draft pick, had hit six homers in 61 games for the Tides and has half that many in two games for the Orioles.
“I'm seeing the ball well right now. Just trying to keep it simple,” Parmelee said. “Trying to keep it simple up there and kind of ride the wave as long as you can.”
His teammates are impressed with what he has done so quickly — though they won't make it easy for him, naturally.
“Hey, we get it all right? We get it,” joked outfielder David Lough. “No, he's a great player. He's up here to prove he belongs. You know he's been in the big leagues before. … He's a great guy and I'm glad he's having success.”
The Phillies tied it in the bottom of the first when Chase Utley singled, stole second, moved to third on catcher Matt Wieters' throwing error and scored on a wild pitch by Jimenez. Otherwise, Jimenez pitched well, taking a 6-1 lead into the seventh, when he gave up two consecutive singles and Freddy Galvis' second homer of the season.
Jimenez allowed eight hits but didn't walk anyone for just the second time this season and picked up his sixth quality start in 13 games this year while striking out eight batters. It was his longest outing this month.
“That's what I'm trying to do every time out there is commanding the fastball,” Jimenez said. “I made the hitters earn it instead of walking guys and getting bad counts. That's what I want to do out there.”
The Orioles broke the game open in the fourth against right-hander Kevin Correia (0-1), who was making his second start for the Phillies. Snider reached base on an error by Galvis to start the inning. Wieters hit an RBI single and Lough drove in two runs with a double to right. Lough has eight hits in 13 career at-bats against Correia.
“I faced him quite a bit while I was with Kansas City and he was with Minnesota,” Lough said. “But I was just looking for a good pitch and was able to come through with two outs and the bases loaded.”
The Orioles' final run of the inning came off the bat of Jimenez, who beat out a swinging bunt to third base. J.J. Hardy dashed home for Jimenez's 10th career RBI.
“It was fun, but at the same time, you get really tired,” Jimenez said about his sprint to first.
Snider gave the Orioles their sixth run in the fifth with his second home run as an Oriole and first since April 12. The Orioles bullpen, led by Chaz Roe, Brian Matusz and Britton (18th save) pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings to preserve the victory, keeping the Orioles surging — and the Phillies reeling.
“April, May, it's like fighters in the first few rounds kind of feeling their way around, trying not to get knocked out and trying to figure out what the other guy's got and what they have,” Showalter said about his team's recent upswing. “And then, sooner or later you've got to start throwing punches."