When the Orioles opened the season winning their first seven games and averaging 5.9 runs a game, they were enacting a "pass the baton" mentality that Orioles manager Buck Showalter preached to the team during spring training.
Now here were are and the Orioles have lost four of their last five games. They've scored two runs or less in all four of those losses. They will enter Wednesday's series finale in Tampa Bay having scored just one run over the past 26 innings.
Their success was characterized by a sudden success in being more disciplined at the plate and working at-bats, something that had long been emphasized in their recent feast-or-famine past, but suddenly started actually working out.
"I don't know what it could have been," Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy said Friday when talking about how different the Orioles at bats had been in the first weeks of the season. "And if anyone does know, it would be really nice to know what for when we go in a funk because there's going to be times this year when the conversations aren't going to be as positive and if we knew what started this and just go right back to that, it would be really helpful, but I don't think anyone ever does know that."
Now the Orioles have reached that point when it's time for some soul searching.
It's important to note that they have continued to work counts effectively. In their 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday, the Orioles saw an average of 4.21 pitches per plate appearance, which is good.
On Tuesday, the Orioles' had their opportunities to chase Rays starter Jake Odorizzi from the game early. In the fourth inning, the Orioles' first four hitters reached base. With one run already in, the Orioles loaded the bases with no outs, but slumping second baseman Jonathan Schoop popped up to shortstop and catcher Caleb Joseph hit into an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.
"We had what, nine hits today?" Joseph said. "We just need to rattle some of those together. We had a good opportunity in the fourth inning and just couldn't push them across so we have to do that. When we get a pitcher on ropes like that, we really have to be able to make it hurt, and tonight we let him off the hook."
The Orioles also stranded runners at second and third with one out in the second inning.
Odorizzi was at 89 pitches through four innings, but needed just eight pitches to get out of the fifth. In that inning, Adam Jones hit a one-out single, but was picked off.
But you also have to give credit to the Tampa Bay defense, which made a handful of fine defensive plays to keep the Orioles at bay.
Two batters into the game, Jones laced a full-count pitch deep to center field, but Kevin Kiermaier made a nice running leaping catch over his shoulder at the warning track just before hitting the wall.
The Orioles hit into three double-plays on the night. Rays third baseman Evan Longoria made a nice snag on Joseph's double-play ball that ended the fourth. And the other two double plays – which happened in the seventh and eighth – erased leadoff singles.
"They played good defense," Joseph said. "It's a quick surface here and they obviously know what they're doing. They turn quite a few double plays that I wasn't sure they were going to turn. They've got a good defense there. We've just to go keep squaring them up."