The Orioles haven't played well on the road this season, and their struggles away from Camden Yards date to late April. But their upcoming six-game road trip to face the Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays offers an opportunity to reverse those losing ways.
They boarded a plane for Florida on Thursday night with the second-worst road record in the American League, an 11-23 mark that has had much to do with their six-week tumble from atop the division to a share of the AL East cellar.
The Orioles have struggled of late no matter the venue, going 13-27 overall since May 9. Since that date -- when they were 22-10 with the best record in baseball -- the Orioles have lost 16 of 18 road games. They haven't won a series away from Camden Yards since taking two of three from the Cincinnati Reds from April 18-20.
Since then, the Orioles have lost six full road series, split a four-game series in Boston and lost individual interleague games in Washington that were separated because one was postponed by rain.
"There's probably comfortability with every team playing at home," rookie outfielder Trey Mancini said. "Everything's familiar. You play half of your games there. So I think that's probably the only thing I can think of. Part of it could be coincidence. … Earlier in the year, I think we had a couple good road series when we went to Toronto that one time and Cincinnati and such. I think we can easily turn the tide again. Hopefully we can do so. There's not something that really correlates with anything, just the way the tide has turned for us on the road."
Orioles designated hitter-outfielder Mark Trumbo said Thursday that he wasn't aware of the team's road struggles until recently, and couldn't pinpoint why the club's results have been so dramatically different home and away.
"Yeah, it's hard," Trumbo said. "Actually until being alerted about it last week, I wasn't really aware. I know the overall feeling is that we haven't played as well, but I don't think it's something that myself or anybody else in here has really noticed too much. You can probably just say it's one of those things."
Five of the Orioles' past six road opponents were out of the division — the Washington Nationals, Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, Houston Astros and Chicago White Sox. Even though the one division series in that stretch was a three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium in which the Orioles were outscored 38-8, getting back into division play on the road is something they can be optimistic about. The Orioles own a 21-16 record against AL East opponents.
"We have to be strong at home and on the road," said Orioles bench coach John Russell, who filled in as manager Thursday with Buck Showalter away for the birth of his first grandchild. "I look at it as that we've done pretty well in our division and now we're going to go back into our division. I think that is something I know Buck and I talk about, but I know the players feel that we know our division. We know these guys and we've had success against them.
"So I think that in itself is a little bit of a motivator. It's not a confidence builder because Tampa has been playing really well and Toronto has most of their guys back and they've been playing a lot better. So it's not going to be a cakewalk by any stretch and it's going to be tough, but we have played pretty well in our division."
The Orioles have played well against division opponents. When you take away six road games against the New York Yankees in which they were outscored 68-30, they are 20-11 against the division but just 6-4 against AL East foes on the road.
This will be the Orioles' first series at Tampa Bay this season — they took two of three from the Rays at Camden Yards in April in their only previous meeting this season. The Orioles have won seven of nine against the Blue Jays, including three of four during an April trip to Toronto.
However, when that success came, both the Rays and Blue Jays were struggling. The Blue Jays are two games under .500, tied with the Orioles for last place in the AL East at 35-37. But the Jays have made an eight-game improvement since starting the season 9-19. The Rays, who have spent the entire season within three games of the .500 mark, entered Thursday in the AL's second wild-card spot at 39-36 after winning eight of their past 12 series.
"Every series is important and these are no different," Mancini said. "We want to go out and win a couple series here on the road. I was in here the other day and was looking at the TV and it was showing the wild-card standings and every team in the league is within a pretty close margin with each other. So it's wide open, and everybody knows that. We just try to take it a day at a time and I think if we do that, then maybe things will turn in our favor a little more and we'll start putting some winning streaks together."
Offensively, the Orioles haven't been much different on the road than at home, at least statistically. They entered Thursday hitting .254/.312/.439 in 37 home games compared to a .256/.306/.420 slash line in 34 games away from Baltimore. They do average more home runs at Camden Yards (1.57 per game) than on the road (1.29), but that can be expected given the hitter-friendly nature of Oriole Park, especially as the temperatures have risen.
The biggest statistical difference between the Orioles at home and on the road is their pitching. They entered Thursday with a staff ERA more than two runs per game higher away from Camden Yards (6.14) than at home (4.13). The Orioles' starting pitching splits home and away are even more dramatic, with the rotation posting a 6.84 ERA on the road compared to a 4.55 mark at home.
Over their current 2-16 stretch on the road, the Orioles have allowed 7.3 runs a game, a figure that balloons to 8.9 runs per game over their most recent road trip, in which the Orioles went 1-7 against the Nationals, Yankees and White Sox.
Still, the Orioles look at the coming trip as an opportunity to get back to consistent division play and a chance to build some momentum before the All-Star break. The Orioles play 13 of their 16 games going into the break on the road. Trips to face the Milwaukee Brewers and Minnesota Twins follow a short three-game homestand against the Rays.
Ultimately, the Orioles have to end their road woes to have a chance to to turn their season around.
"I'd like to think so," Trumbo said. "We've got to play well all around, at home and on the road. This division's just too good to have one or the other. It's going to be important, especially against two division teams coming up. We're going to need to bring it, do what we can to win those series."