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Orioles searching for positives as spiral continues in Minnesota

When things start to go as bad as they are for the Orioles, you're looking for anything positive to hold on to.

For manager Buck Showalter after his team's 6-4 loss, he pointed to some improved at-bats, not the 10 runners the Orioles left on base.

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He pointed to the moxie right-hander Dylan Bundy showed to get out of a six-run third inning. Forget about the diminished returns that his five-inning outing could lead to after the Orioles had to use four relievers Thursday night. Showalter has seen too many of his starters unable to get through the third inning to take anything for granted.

And then it was the ultimate sign of the rebuilding mode premonition — or maybe just a glimpse of how thin the Orioles have become throughout the organization — the sight of second baseman Jonathan Schoop getting his feet wet at shortstop, marking the first time he has played there in four years (and first time as a major leaguer).

Third baseman Manny Machado coached his friend on the left side of the infield, positioning him at his original position, joking around in the jovial manner that only those two can. But outside of that, this Orioles season is becoming no laughing matter.

Outfielder Mark Trumbo was outwardly frustrated, calling the team's recent play "lousy" and saying the team "better get with the program" if it is to have any hope of returning to the postseason.

"Collectively, we just didn't play well enough, and we haven't for a while," Trumbo said. "We've got to do a better job out there. … You've got to play fundamental baseball. You have to get good starting pitching, you have to get some timely hitting, guys getting on base, playing nice defense. Those are the ingredients to a good ballclub."

Over his past five starts, Bundy has gone from one of the team's few bright spots to another rotation concern. He came into his own because he was able to pick apart opposing hitters with his location, but in the past three weeks, he has missed his spots far too often and hitters are making him pay. What that has left is a small margin of error for Bundy, and when plays aren't being made behind him, he's put in a hole.

When reliving his six-run third inning, Bundy wanted to go outside to center fielder Byron Buxton, but missed the entire length of the plate, giving him an 0-1 fastball inside that put two on with no outs. Two batters later, after Miguel Sano drove in the first run of the inning, Bundy wanted to go inside to right fielder Max Kepler, but ended up leaving a fastball over the plate for a two-run single.

"I missed my spot by a foot or two and they made me pay for it," Bundy said.

Bundy couldn't do much about an 0-1 changeup low in the zone that Eduardo Escobar turned on and sent off a nook in the right-field wall that sent right fielder Seth Smith chasing into the corner for a two-run triple.

Showalter was forced to find little victories.

"He didn't implode," Showalter said. "Dylan pitches beyond his years. He's a smart young man with common sense. That was a frustrating inning for him because a couple of sequences didn't fall how they should have, but other than that, take away that one inning, you like the result. But unfortunately you can't take it away. And it was a big crooked number. He's been pretty good about that. In fact, to come back and finish that inning, he was a pitch away from getting out of there and not being able to give us five innings, which allowed our bullpen to shut them down and get back in the game."

eencina@baltsun.com

twitter.com/EddieInTheYard

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