CLEVELAND — So Orioles fans, this is how it's going to be?
The Orioles always make it interesting. They have their moments when they spark elation and other times when they elicit extreme frustration.
Their 4-3 loss to the Indians on Tuesday night was one of those games. An offense full of potent bats was held scoreless for eight innings, stranding nine baserunners before Nate McLouth's three-run homer in the ninth gave them hope.
In a scoreless game, the Orioles had runners at first and third with one out in the second inning, but Nick Markakis popped up and J.J. Hardy flew out to end the inning. They also had the bases loaded in the sixth before trade acquisition Michael Morse grounded out to the pitcher to end the inning.
And just after the final out was recorded, the Yankees completed their rally from a three-run eighth-inning deficit against the White Sox to win and send the Orioles to fourth place in the AL East.
After midnight, the Rays won in Anaheim to drop the Orioles back to three games back of the second AL wild-card spot.
If the Orioles don't win tonight in Cleveland, it'll be three straight series losses and four of five – with all four coming against chief postseason competition – Tampa Bay, Boston, New York and Cleveland.
It's not good enough, as Buck Showalter sometimes says.
They're lucky that the other teams aren't playing well either. They're still in the race. And they have so many games remaining against Boston (six), New York (four) and Tampa Bay (four).
Next week's four-game series against the Yankees at Camden Yards will be huge, but they need to get back in order now.
It's hard to pin the loss on Tillman. Two leadoff walks ended up scoring – as did an intentional pass to Jason Kubel in the sixth – but Tillman has been masterful in working out of trouble. And he's had two games over his last six starts in which he's left with a lead that the bullpen couldn't hold. In another game, he left with the score tied, 1-1, against Oakland after eight innings, and the Orioles lost, 2-1.
So even though Tillman has 15 wins, he should probably be pushing 20 wins.
The Orioles will now turn to left-hander Zach Britton to get the series win. Britton hasn't pitched since last Wednesday, but he's shown a lot at Triple-A Norfolk over the past month. He's worked with Tides pitching coach Mike Griffin to make his delivery more compact. We will see how that translates here tonight.
Regardless how Britton pitches, he won't win without some offense. And the Orioles' bats have been erratic for most past month. They have to start showing some steady production soon, because time is running out.