CHICAGO — Perhaps because it's been broken up among four cities and three weeks, or perhaps because baseball players tend not to let a bad thing linger, the Orioles' 10-game road losing streak and overall away-game swoon didn't much register in their clubhouse before Monday night's series opener against the Chicago White Sox.
Even so, the 10-7 loss at Guaranteed Rate Field felt like more of the same — ineffective pitching, a frustrating offensive night, and a singular category in the standings that has dragged the Orioles down to .500 (31-31): their performance on the road.
Manager Buck Showalter doesn't excuse that tunnel vision as the Orioles looked to turn their fate around against the reeling White Sox this week, but he knows it can't continue much longer if they want to keep pace with their American League East and other league rivals this season.
"We do know the path to the playoffs is usually with a good road record," Showalter said. "That's a pretty common denominator. We've been a pretty good road team in the past, and I feel like we will again if we can be more consistent pitching.
"There's a lot of things that everybody out of the clubhouse pays attention to, but what does that mean, that we should just stay in the clubhouse on the road? When you're in the arena, you don't dwell on it nearly as much. Trust me, they know. It's a feel thing as much as numbers."
Pitching, Showalter identified, is the main difference between the team's 21-10 home record and its 10-21 road record.
At home, the staff has a 3.63 ERA, good for fifth in the AL entering Monday. Its 1.37 WHIP at home is tied for 13th in the league, but it's been saved by allowing just 33 home runs there (barely over one per game).
"We have pitched better at home, and it's kind of a hitter-friendly park, for the most part," he said. "But that's usually how it works."
That trend continued with another short start from left-hander Wade Miley on Tuesday. He didn't make it out of the third inning, and the team allowed 10 runs to make it 54 runs allowed on their current five-game road trip.
Entering Monday, the staff's road ERA was 6.02, the worst in the AL by almost a full run, with a WHIP of 1.65 and 51 home runs allowed in 30 games.
At the plate, the Orioles entered Monday with a .251/.312/.422 batting line with 45 home runs and 133 runs scored in 31 home games, compared with .249/.298/.419 with 41 home runs and 135 runs scored in 30 road games.
But sweeps last month in Kansas City, Mo., and Houston, plus a series loss in Detroit and last weekend's shellacking in New York, have put them in a difficult spot away from home, provided they don't turn things around.
Teams generally are better at home than on the road, and the Orioles'
success in Baltimore has buoyed them in recent years, but they've lived dangerously in that aspect of late. At 39-42, their road record last season was better than that of just one other playoff team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were 38-43. The Dodgers were under .500 when they won their division in 2015, too, and the Houston Astros made the playoffs as the second wild card with a 33-48 road record that year.
With 10 playoff teams each year under the 5-year-old playoff format that includes two wild-card teams each season, just nine of the 50 playoff teams in that period have had a losing record on the road.
None have been worse than the .407 winning percentage the Astros posted in 2015 away from their home park, and just three of those were in the AL.
The Orioles, too, have gone into road swoons like this in their own playoff seasons. Outfielder-designated hitter Mark Trumbo said it feels more like those than anything extraordinary.
"It's hard to say," Trumbo said. "I guess we've had a few rough road trips. But it seems like it's part of the grind of the regular season.
This recent trip obviously hasn't started out our way, but I don't think it's something that most guys are even aware."
Several players believe it comes down to just not playing well overall. Despite being out of the lineup since Wednesday — missing a road loss to the Washington Nationals and the Yankees' sweep in the Bronx — third baseman Manny Machado said the Orioles have been playing "bad baseball."
Another man left on the sidelines in their recent swoon, closer Brad Brach, agreed.
"I honestly didn't know we'd played that bad until somewhere yesterday, I saw the record," he said. "I didn't realize it was that bad. But what's going on on the road, I don't really have an answer to that. We just really haven't been playing good baseball, period.
"Hopefully, we can just get it turned around."