It's even starting to affect the usually reliable ones now, the Orioles' run of horrid pitching that continues to sink their season to embarrassing levels.
Jake Arrieta, once considered one of the few young players to make strides this season, now can't keep the ball in the strike zone or pitch deep enough into the game to get a win. Jim Johnson, perhaps the Orioles' best pitcher for the first three months, suddenly can't put up a shutout inning or protect either a lead or a tie.
It has become an epidemic, and the Orioles appear powerless to stop it. There is no end in sight to their season-worst losing streak, which reached nine games Friday night with a 6-5 loss to the Cleveland Indians in front of an announced 27,532 atCamden Yards.
"It's one thing to say it and think it and hope it and want it to happen. It's another thing to execute it. That's where it's coming," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said when asked about his team's pitching woes. "They certainly want to do it. Believe me, it's at the foremost of what's on their subject matter for the day. I guarantee you. But we just haven't been able to do it executionwise. We get some shutdown innings there and get in that sixth or seventh inning … we just haven't been able to do it with any of our starters, it seems like."
A half-inning after Adam Jones tied the score with a long two-run home run to center in the bottom of the fifth, Johnson (5-3) allowed three consecutive hits, including rookie Lonnie Chisenhall's go-ahead single that made the score 6-5, before he even got an out.
He has allowed runs in four of his past five outings, and he has two of the nine losses during the Orioles' skid, their longest since they dropped 10 in a row from May 26 to June 5 last year.
"It gets old saying that we give ourselves an opportunity to win. You either win or you don't. It's frustrating when you don't win and you feel like you have a chance to win the game," Johnson said. "I know that I didn't do what I'm supposed to do. I did the three things that a pitcher can't do: fall behind hitters, pitch up in the zone and give up a run as soon as we scored. That's never a recipe for success, and that's on me. I'll only speak for myself."
Trailing by a run, the Orioles still had 12 outs to work with, but the Indians bullpen came on in relief of Josh Tomlin and allowed just two walks the rest of the way. Cleveland's relief corps has pitched seven hitless innings in the series.
After issuing a leadoff walk in the ninth to Nolan Reimold, whom Felix Pie bunted over to second, Indians closer Chris Perez got pinch hitter Blake Davis to foul out and retired J.J. Hardy on a ground ball to second base to pick up his 22nd save.
Thus, the Orioles (36-54) hit three home runs, Jones drove in three runs, and Nick Markakis notched his 1,000th career hit with a two-out single in the third, but they still lost for the 14th time in 15 games, and the 23 time over their last 29 contests.
They've been outscored 76-33 during their nine-game losing streak, and they've been overmatched by a 34-16 margin in going 0-5 against the first-place Indians (49-42) this season.
"You can [whine] and complain or you can do something about it," said Jones, who tied the score at 3 in the third inning with an RBI double, then tied it again in the fifth by depositing a pitch from Tomlin (11-4) over the wall for his 14th homer. "We played a better game than I know we did [Thursday] night, just we still lost. So it's still the same result to me."
Orioles pitching has allowed 76 runs over the past nine games. With Arrieta surrendering five runs over five innings in the no-decision, Orioles starters are 2-12 with a 9.60 ERA over the past 18 games, and they've completed six innings only twice during that span. Arrieta hasn't gotten an out in the sixth inning in a month, a span of four outings.
Overall, Orioles pitching has given up four runs or more in 20 straight games and 10 hits or more in 10 straight games.
"Each time I go out, I'm trying to win a game for the team, and not being able to do that in my last three or four starts, it is not a good feeling," said Arrieta, who is 0-2 with an 8.79 ERA, allowing 14 runs, 20 hits and nine walks over 141/3 innings in his last three starts.
"Pile that on top of the way that things have been going … as a team, it doesn't feel great. But we try not to really let that bother us. Just continue to work and try to get back in the win column. It's going to come sooner or later; we know that. We've got too much talent in this clubhouse to let things continue to go the way they are going."
Arrieta allowed eight hits and walked three, and most damaging was his habit of giving runs back right after the Orioles had scored. Solo homers by Matt Wieters and Reimold gave the Orioles a 2-1 lead in the second. Arrieta promptly allowed a two-run homer to Asdrubal Cabrera in the third.
Markakis, who got a standing ovation after becoming the 14th player to get his 1,000th hit in an Orioles uniform, scored from first on Jones' double to tie the score in the third before Arrieta gave up a two-run shot to Grady Sizemore in the fifth.
"I think our guys are more interested in the finished product right now and whether we didn't put up a shutout inning after scoring two or three times, or whether we had the tying run on second base the last inning. I think it's a whole picture, not just that," Showalter said.
"When you go right back out there and give it back up, that kind of takes away from that momentum."