Before his Orioles went and made a prophet out of him Monday with their fifth shutout loss of the season, a 6-0 defeat at the hands of the visiting Washington Nationals, manager Buck Showalter draped a big, wide net over all the team's struggles to push the runners they do get on base across and score some runs this season.
It's about their approach, he said, and how they respond to how opposing pitchers attack them, and it goes for pretty much everyone.
"It kind of reflects bad on all of us," Showalter said. "It's not an individual. We all wear it."
Indeed, it does.
Monday's presentation of that indelible Orioles trait came in circumstances that only made it that much more striking. Camden Yards was built for days like Monday, with as comfortable a summer day as this city can offer welcoming an announced Memorial Day crowd of 36,139 to watch a team built to clobber the ball out of it.
The orange portion of the crowd lives in constant hope that the team can deliver a show on afternoons like this one, when the ballpark can't seem to hold its power. The portion of that crowd in red lives in constant fear that Gio Gonzalez will turn in a short start and turn it over to a shaky bullpen.
Neither happened Monday as Gonzalez pitched past the seventh inning for the first time in his past 20 starts, didn't hit 100 pitches until the eighth inning, and put on a master class of pitching with a lead — and keeping it.
To get that advantage, one Gonzalez would ultimately make stand up Monday, he had to get a proper introduction to his foil on this day: an Orioles lineup that has been able to make a zero from any number of run-scoring situations this year.
“I think you're being nice when you say a little,” Showalter said postgame of the assertion that the struggles have been small ones. “It's been a challenge for us most of the year. I'm going to always give credit to the starting pitcher for them. ... We've had success against good pitchers before, and it's a good situation for other pitchers right now — because they're really good, and we're not swinging the bats well. That's a bad combination.”
In the second inning, that included erasing a leadoff single with a hasty double play and following up back-to-back, two-out walks with a strikeout on four pitches. The Orioles went quietly in a third inning during which they fell behind 3-0, and erased a leadoff single in the fourth inning with another double play.
Adam Jones had a one-out double in the sixth inning and didn't move. Danny Valencia had another leadoff single in the seventh erased by another double play, off the bat of Trey Mancini.
And after a two-out single by leadoff man Joey Rickard chased Gonzalez — albeit to a standing ovation from a partisan Nationals crowd — Jones singled to bring Manny Machado up with a rally to be had. Machado popped up a 3-1 slider to end the inning.
“We're having a lot of trouble of sustaining the inning, and then when we get it up in there, we can't get that knock,” Showalter said. “We had a couple sutations where we're just a base hit from getting some good [innings]. You saw it, I think it was in Chicago, where we finally got that knock, that run, and all of a sudden it relaxed everybody and the runs kept coming. The game, a big part of it is analytics and stats and whatever, but a big part of it's psyche and the emotional part of it. You're just hoping even a flare somewhere or something where it kind of relaxes everybody and you get going. Because there's a game there to be won with Alex.”
In all, the Orioles put nine men on base, and scored none of them, rendering moot the fact that Alex Cobb actually pitched well outside of the marathon three-run third inning during which Anthony Rendon hit a three-run home run. Reliever Richard Bleier had an uncharacteristically bad outing, allowing three runs, but the scoreless offense didn’t make those mean anything, either.
The Orioles have scored three runs or fewer in 32 of 54 games, and are 4-28 in such games.
“It’s a tough game, so we’ve just got to continue to have each other’s back,” Rickard said. “We know we’ll come through. We know what this lineup is capable of. We’ve just got to stay out there and stay aggressive.”