On the one-year anniversary of one of the most memorable nights in Camden Yards history -- the club's raucous clinching of their first division title in 17 years – the 2015 Orioles delivered a clunker Wednesday that served as a resounding but unnecessary reminder that this team isn't what it was one short year ago.
Hoping to ride recent momentum for a sweep of the last-place Boston Red Sox, the Orioles' fleeting playoff hopes took another hit in a 10-1 bludgeoning before an announced 22,642.
The Orioles (71-74) have won three straight series and lost just two of their past eight contests. But each defeat becomes critical with only 17 games remaining this season and the hopes of securing a playoff berth fading away. The Orioles remained 5 1/2 games behind the Houston Astros for the second wild-card spot.
They now head to St. Petersburg, Fla., to begin a 10-game, 11-day road trip that could decide their fate before they return to Camden Yards on Sept. 28 for their final homestand of the season. So the Orioles must quickly forget about Wednesday's beating.
"Not one we need to dwell on. We need to go to Tampa and play good baseball like we have been," Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy said. "We've said we need to go out there and win 'em all. Obviously, we lost tonight, but we need to take that same approach going into the next series."
Wednesday's loss, which ended a seven-game winning streak at home against Boston (68-77), wasn't just critical. It was downright ugly -- like pre-2012 ugly.
Orioles rookie right-hander Mike Wright, who might have been pitching for his rotation spot, didn't get out of the fourth, allowing six runs in three-plus innings.
After making such an impressive splash when he debuted in May -- two consecutive scoreless outings of at least seven innings -- Wright has not been able to get beyond the fifth in any of his past seven big league starts.
"I felt good. Felt good all my starts," Wright said. "That's what's really tough about it is I feel good about it, and then I get hit all over the yard."
Since being reinstated from the disabled list on Sept. 4, Wright (2-5) has made three starts and struggled in each. In those three outings, the 25-year-old right-hander has permitted 13 runs in 12 innings (9.75 ERA) and yielded five homers. His ERA rose to 6.33 in 42 2/3 big league innings.
Wright allowed two homers Wednesday, a solo shot to David Ortiz in the second inning -- the slugger's sixth homer in his past nine games in Baltimore -- and a two-run blast to Dustin Pedroia in a three-run third. Wright was chased in the fourth after giving up a single and double to lead off the inning.
"The home run I gave up to Pedroia was a belt-high slider; I could have hit it out. There was a lot of problems," Wright said. "It sucks. This isn't fun at all."
Although Wright had a 2.22 ERA and nine quality starts with Norfolk this year, those within the organization have debated whether his future is as a big league starter or reliever.
Given Wright's truncated outings recently, and the presence of right-hander Tyler Wilson after Tuesday's recall from Norfolk, it's possible Wilson will get the call the next time Wright's spot comes around, Monday at the Washington Nationals.
Further muddying Wright's spot in the rotation is that right-hander Miguel Gonzalez, whose stint on the DL created the opening, is on the mend from shoulder and elbow tendinitis. Showalter has already said he'd like Gonzalez to start once or twice more this season if possible.
"So, Mike is starting right now. Tyler is ready, and hopefully Mike can get some things from it, too," Showalter said. "We're trying to present our best chance to win; we hoped it was with Mike starting tonight."
When asked specifically what Wright didn't do Wednesday, Showalter responded, "Just didn't command the baseball very well. We caught a couple other balls they hit hard. He had a fairly crisp first inning and after that the command of the baseball deserted him. A lot of balls [were in] the center of the plate."
Wright was replaced by reliever Jorge Rondon, who allowed both inherited runners to score on RBI singles. Pedroia then blew the game open with a three-run homer to left. It was his 12th on the season and sixth in 74 games at Camden Yards. Pedroia now has three multi-homer games this year and six in his career.
"I just feel strong. I feel healthy, so it's just a matter of getting back in the rhythm," said Pedroia, who has played just 81 games this season because of a right hamstring injury. "Sometimes you get hurt and miss some time. The biggest thing is for me is to make sure I'm out there feeling good and being able to help us win."
While the Red Sox were knocking around Orioles pitching, rookie lefty Henry Owens was befuddling Orioles hitters.
Entering the evening with a 5.25 ERA in seven big league starts, the highly regarded 23-year-old faced the minimum nine batters through three innings, allowing one hit and then immediately picking up a double play.
Using a 90-mph fastball and a good curve and changeup, the Boston organization's Pitcher of the Year last season scattered six hits and didn't walk a batter over 7 2/3 scoreless innings. Only once did Owens (3-2) allow two base runners in an inning.
"He's a good young pitcher," Showalter said. "We knew he was going to throw about 45 to 50 percent off-speed pitches and he did, and was going to have some challenges commanding the fastball, which he did. We just didn't make a very good adjustment."
The Orioles avoided their 10th shutout loss of the season in the ninth when Steve Pearce hit an RBI groundout to score Junior Lake, who had reached on an error.
Wednesday was so lopsided that the Orioles emptied their bench heading into the eighth inning, replacing every starter but Pearce in left field and designated hitter Nolan Reimold.
Of the six pitchers the Orioles used, only one, T.J. McFarland, was on the roster a year ago Wednesday when the organization celebrated its division title.
Now the Orioles need to practically win out to get back to the postseason for the third time in four years.
"Nobody here is giving up," Hardy said. "And that's the way we're gonna go about it."