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Slumping Orioles offense awakens as rotation woes continue

Manager Buck Showalter was trying to find the right word Wednesday afternoon to describe how his inconsistent hitters might be feeling after losing the first two games of the four-game home series against the first-place Boston Red Sox.

They had been upstaged in their home ballpark by a Boston lineup that seemed determined to show them who was the real power broker in the American League East. The Sox had outhomered them 7-0 Monday and Tuesday to add to a slump that dated to the Orioles' ugly 52-strikeout series in Houston.

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So "unconcerned" certainly wasn't the right word.

"Frustrated" really didn't fit the mood either.

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Showalter kept searching for the perfect adjective, finally settling on one that didn't even sound like a real word.

"Revengeful."

"I like that," Showalter said. "But unfortunately, [sometimes] the starting pitcher for the other team won't let you do that. These are the best pitchers in the world. Fifth starters here were the No. 1s at every other level in baseball."

That was not the problem during Wednesday night's 13-9 victory at Oriole Park. The Orioles found Red Sox right-hander Joe Kelly quite cooperative when they arrived at home plate facing an early one-run deficit, and they wasted no time getting after him.

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The Orioles sent eight batters to the plate and scored four times in the first inning. They would keep swinging until Kelly departed in the third inning, and they would keep swinging after that until they piled up their biggest run total of the year. But if a boatload of runs should have made things all better, the first three innings of the game also illustrated a more disturbing reality facing the Orioles as they inch deeper into a long string of games against some of the best teams in the AL.

The starting rotation is suddenly very much in crisis.

Maybe the Orioles could write off the beating that promising right-hander Kevin Gausman took from Mookie Betts and the Red Sox on Tuesday night. But the soft underside of the rotation was badly exposed again Wednesday when Mike Wright could not hold that early lead for even one inning and was — like Kelly — gone in the third.

Never mind that Betts homered off him in each of the first two innings, just as he did against Gausman the night before. The Red Sox right fielder is nothing short of unconscious right now. Wright gave up four homers in just 22/3 innings to let the Red Sox take a two-run lead.

Though that lead didn't stand for long, the impression it left was that the Orioles rotation might be in much deeper trouble than even their critics imagined. They will send struggling right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez to the mound against seven-game winner Rick Porcello tonight and no one has to tell you what Jimenez has been doing over the past month.

The Orioles will have to have a lot more offensive performances like Wednesday's if they cannot stabilize the rotation, and they will have to have them during the remaining 18 straight games against the Red Sox, New York Yankees, world champion Kansas City Royals, Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers.

"It was a big one, grinding one out in a game when you really didn't know what was going to happen," said catcher Matt Wieters, who drove in three runs with a sacrifice fly and a key two-run single in the seventh. "There was a lot of everything in that game. It's a nice win, and to be able to swing and have everybody contribute to the offense tonight was big."

The first inning was a clinic. Adam Jones dug himself out of an 0-2 hole and lined a full-count pitch into left field for a leadoff single. Hyun Soo Kim followed with a single to right and Chris Davis filled the bases with a one-out walk.

What followed were three straight run-scoring swings, starting with a two-run single by club RBI leader Mark Trumbo, who ranked among the AL leaders with 39 after that hit. Wieters followed with a sacrifice fly, and Pedro Alvarez capped the rally with an RBI double.

The Orioles also scored a run in the second on a sacrifice fly by Manny Machado after Kim sent Jones to third with a long ground-rule double to center. The Orioles also answered the Red Sox rally in the third with three run-scoring hits.

It isn't often eight runs in the first three innings do not guarantee a victory, but the clutch hitting throughout the lineup — six players had driven in runs by the end of the third — certainly was a positive sign.

"I think with the construction that we have, there are going to be some really good times and some times that are not quite as good," Trumbo said before the game. "We'll probably have a few more highs and lows than maybe a team that has guys that have slightly different skillsets."

Trumbo said the key to getting through the tough times is understanding that they don't last forever and that the Orioles lineup is too good to stay down for long.

"It just comes with a little more experience," he said. "You've got to approach each day like it could be a great game. That's always the mindset — that you're going to go out there and put some really nice at-bats together and get the job done.

"If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. But to drag the previous game into the next one, that's just certain death. That's not going to do anything for you."

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