The Orioles came into their three-game series against the high-flying Houston Astros with a little bit of momentum after sweeping a four-game series against the Texas Rangers, but manager Buck Showalter has a saying about that.
He tends to dismiss the concept with the baseball truism that "momentum is only as good as the next day's starting pitcher."
On Friday night, that was doubly true in the Orioles' 8-7 loss before an announced 25,784 at Camden Yards.
Right-hander Ubaldo Jiménez (4-6) is too often the antidote for momentum and that was the case from the get-go. He struck out two of the first three batters he faced, but — as so often happens — the third out was elusive and the Astros scored three runs in the first inning. They added two more in the second inning and the Orioles' brief era of good feelings was all but over.
Or, at least, that was how it appeared until the Orioles (46-50) almost rallied from an 8-1 deficit in the late innings before their four-game winning streak came to an end.
Houston second baseman José Altuve sneaked a walk in between those first two strikeouts and stole second before Carlos Beltrán gave his team the lead with a sharp single to right field. Jiménez quickly served up a two-run homer to Yuli Gurriel and Astros pitcher Mike Fiers took the mound with a nice early cushion.
It would get cushier in the second inning when Alex Bregman led off with a single and No. 9 hitter Colin Moran brought him home with a triple, then scored on a groundout to make it a five-run game before the Orioles came to bat for the second time. Moran would also homer in the eighth inning off Orioles reliever Richard Bleier.
The only redeeming thing about Jimenez's outing was that he still got into the sixth inning. He left after giving up a solo home run to catcher Brian McCann and — as difficult as this might sound — still managed to raise his ERA from 7.01 to 7.19.
"Of course it's difficult when you put your team in a bad position," Jiménez said, "but you just have to worry about going deep into the game and save the bullpen."
Jiménez has generally accepted his recent travails without complaint or excuse, but he said after the game that the combination of bad luck and bad location has been too much to overcome.
"I guess I'm leaving a couple pitches up and they're making me pay for it," he said. "I'm not getting any break and even when they hit it soft they find a hole. … It's a little frustrating, but it's part of the game. Sometimes they hit the ball hard and they hit it right at somebody, but I'm in the spot right now where they hit if soft they find a hole and if they hit it hard it's going to be out of the park."
Fiers, meanwhile,was having no trouble with an Orioles offense that had come alive against the struggling Rangers. He got into a couple of jams, but the only run he gave up over seven innings came on a bloop RBI single by Jonathan Schoop with two outs in the third inning.
"Their guy was pretty good," manager Buck Showalter said. "We knew what he was going to do and he did it anyway."
The Orioles came back with one in the eighth on a single by Mark Trumbo, and five runs in the ninth on Adam Jones' two-run double and Schoop's three-run homer. But Trumbo struck out to end the game.
Schoop's big week: Schoop has driven in at least one run in each of his past five games and has 13 RBIs in all. He's 9-for-21 (.429) with two doubles and two homers.
Count your blessings: The Orioles entered Friday's game 3½ games out of the second American League wild-card berth and seven games out of first place in the AL East. If they were in the same division as the Astros, they would still be in fourth place, but they would be 18 games behind the Astros.