The Orioles had the opportunity to push the floundering New York Yankees deeper into the American League East cellar Wednesday night, and maybe the Orioles bats were too eager for the opportunity.
Instead, they allowed starter CC Sabathia his best start in more than three years as the reeling Yankees ended their six-game losing streak.
To say that the 35-year-old Sabathia isn't what he used to be is being kind. A 4.75 ERA since the beginning of 2013 shows that. And while the Orioles had their opportunities against Sabathia, the Yankees left-hander walked off the mound after seven scoreless innings in the Orioles' 7-0 loss to New York at Camden Yards.
His last outing of seven or more innings and zero runs allowed was on April 7, 2013.
The Orioles have shown improved patience at the plate this season, but they were almost too eager to jump on Sabathia. Whether it was the three inning-ending double plays or the 1-for-10 showing with runners in scoring position, they allowed Sabathia to escape inning after inning.
"It's a tribute to him," Showalter said of Sabathia. "He made really good pitches in those situations and we were maybe a little overaggressive. You're always trying to ride that line between being aggressive and selective, especially when you got the lead."
Sabathia – armed with a fastball that rarely was clocked above 88 mph and a secondary arsenal that didn't differentiate much in velocity Wednesday – entered the game with a 5.06 ERA and still looking to get his first out beyond the sixth inning this season. He hadn't gone seven innings in any start since last June.
How much has Sabathia struggled with runners on base this season? He had allowed a .935 OPS with men on before Wednesday. And opponents' batting average on balls in play with runners on was a juicy .471.
But on Wednesday, the Orioles put eight men on base against Sabathia over his first six innings.
Manny Machado was stranded in the first after a one-out double.
The Orioles failed to capitalize on a leadoff walk in the third, and failed to score when they had two on with no outs in the inning following Joey Rickard's bunt single. After Machado struck out, Adam Jones jumped on the first pitch he saw and hit into a 6-4-3 double play.
They put runners at the corners with one out in the fifth, but Rickard struck out and Machado lined out to center on the first pitch he saw.
Even in the sixth, Chris Davis drew a one-out walk, but nothing came of it after Mark Trumbo hit into an inning-ending double play.
"I think over the years, he's really had to pitch more," Davis said of Sabathia. "His velocity is obviously not where it used to be, but he knows how to pitch. You don't stay in this game that long not knowing how to pitch. You tip your hat and you move forward."
What had to be most frustrating for Orioles fans was watching Sabathia escape during his third time through the batting order.
In his first four starts this season, opponents were 10-for-25 with a 1.044 OPS against Sabathia the third time through the order.
But on Wednesday, the Orioles were 0-for-7 their third time facing Sabathia, their only base runner coming on Davis' walk in the sixth.
"That's kind of been the way things have been going for us lately," Davis said. "We've had a few games where we've been able to score some runs early and capitalize on those opportunities. But for the most part, we're not getting the job done when we have runners in scoring position. I think the biggest thing to remember is to stay the course. We're playing really good ball defensively right now. I think we're throwing the ball really well right now and we're keeping ourselves in the game and we all know the bats are going to heat up when the weather is not raining and cold and it warms up a bit."