NEW YORK — It took 25-plus innings at Citi Field before the Orioles' offense finally woke up, finally shook off a near-historic malaise and put some runs on the board.
They only had two more innings to make the runs count, though. And they couldn't in a 4-3 loss that cemented the New York Mets' three-game sweep against a suddenly scuffling Orioles squad.
"It was a frustrating series, especially the first 25 innings, I'd say," Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said. "Very, very frustrating. A lot of guys in the clubhouse and the dugout were [ticked] off. But it's the game of baseball. You've got to keep going at it. You've got to keep chugging along and things will fall in."
Saying the Orioles couldn't hit in this series is being charitable. In three games against the Mets, they scored three runs on 12 hits and eight walks while striking out 29 times in 27 innings.
The Orioles were two innings away from being shut out in three consecutive games for the first time since 1957, the only other instance of that kind of futility in modern-franchise history. And their actual scoreless innings streak was at 28 — dating back to the seventh inning Sunday in Atlanta — which was the club's longest drought since 2003.
So in the eighth inning Wednesday, when Wilson Betemit hit a two-run homer to right against Mets righty Dillon Gee, was it a sigh of relief for the Orioles' embattled offense?
"No, it was no sigh of relief. It was, 'All right, that's the spark.' We don't need no sigh of relief," Jones said. "We can hit. We don't score no runs, all right, part of the game is failure; 25 innings we were failing, but you've got to keep swinging the bats. That's the only way to put up a run."
Betemit's homer, his ninth of the season, plated the Orioles' first two runs since Sunday's sixth inning, when, fittingly, they scored on a balk. The Orioles hadn't used a hit to drive in a run since Brian Roberts' two-run single in the seventh inning Saturday — that's a span of 36 innings.
"I got a chance to hit the ball in the inning for a homer. We got a chance to come back, Betemit said. "It didn't end up happening.
The Orioles attempted to build on Betemit's shot in the eighth. Gee issued a one-out walk and was pulled. Roberts followed with a single to give the Orioles two on and one out. J.J. Hardy was then called out when he hit a dribbler in front of the plate and accidentally tapped it again with his bat.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter argued that the ball was foul and should have been called such. But home plate umpire Tm Timmons ruled the ball was fair and therefore could not be batted twice.
"It's pretty obvious what happened compared to what he saw. But that didn't beat us," Showalter said. "It hit him in the box and hit him outside the box, it hit him twice. I think it's pretty obvious. But it's tough. They can't ask for help, the other three guys would come down if they saw it, obviously the four of them didn't see it."
Chris Davis followed with a deep fly to left to end the threat. The Orioles rallied again in the ninth with one-out singles by Matt Wieters and Nick Johnson. Mets closer Frank Francisco walked two of the next three batters, allowing the Orioles to score their third run — again without a batted-ball RBI.
But Francisco picked up his 17th save when Roberts grounded out.
Gee (5-5), who gave up three hits, two walks and two runs while tying a career-high with nine strikeouts. He gave up just one single through seven innings — to fellow starter Brian Matusz, who had been hitless in his previous seven big-league at-bats.
"It's an exciting moment," said Matusz, who was charged with three runs in 4 2/3 innings on the mound. "Being able to hit the last few years, I realize how difficult it actually is, and it's nice to get one."
Matusz (5-8) didn't pitch terribly — he was undone by spotty defense, a few soft hits and one close call at first base — but he threw an uneconomical 93 pitches and couldn't make it out of the fifth on a muggy night.
"For me, I'd like to be able to go deep in games, and that's what's frustrating today," he said. "But, I made some good pitches today when I needed to. I just need to get better."
The Orioles' offense also needs to improve after a 2-4 road trip in which they hit .159 with 51 strikeouts and just 12 runs scored. At 39-30, the Orioles remain in second place in the AL East — 2 1/2 games behind the New York Yankees — as they head back to Camden Yards for a nine-game homestand against three teams that are over .500: the Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Angels and Cleveland Indians.
"We won two out of six on a road trip that we would have liked to have done better," Showalter said. "We turn the page. … We got some real challenges ahead of us. But it never stops at this level."