April 26, 2018 - The Orioles lose to the Rays, 9-5. (Denise Sanders, Baltimore Sun video)
The Orioles entered Friday's series opener against Detroit Tigers off to their worst 25-game start in three decades, since the 1988 season began with 21 straight defeats, their season nearly over before the end its first full month.
Their 6-19 start is the second worst in the franchise's 65 seasons, and it's difficult to find a silver lining with any aspect of this team. Facing a merciless April schedule with 17 of their first 23 games against teams that made the postseason last year, they struggled. But that stretch is over, and after Thursday's 9-5 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, the Orioles were 13 games below .500 for the first time since the end of the 2011 season, leaving everyone involved looking for a way to turn the season around.
"I try to stay in the now and the now is not good, so we need to do something to change that," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said after Thursday's loss. "That's up to us. Our guys know what's at stake. It's not, 'Oh, we'll get them tomorrow.' It's every day. Every day you are trying to figure out a way to get going in the right direction. It's not just a matter of waiting for people to get healthy. You can't do that. The season doesn't stop."
Orioles center fielder Adam Jones attempted to put a positive spin on things after Thursday's loss, saying that reversing this season's start — playing 19-6 over the next 25 games — would put the team back at .500 and back in the race.
"I know it's frustrating; we're all frustrated," Jones said. "The fans are frustrated. If the fans are frustrated, we're a lot more frustrated. We know that this is just an unfortunate occurrence. We have to keep grinding through it. I know it's as cliche as it gets, but there's nothing else you can really do besides continue to grind it out and come out each day with energy, try and eliminate the big innings, try to have big innings on offense, trying to just pass the baton."
On a day in which one of the few bright spots, right-hander Dylan Bundy, was shellacked for eight runs (seven earned) in 4 2/3 innings, the Orioles matched their season high with 16 hits. They rallied from a third-inning six-run deficit, and several times had the opportunity to get within a couple of runs with a big inning that never materialized.
It was a microcosm of their season, their inability to play a complete game — with offense, defense and pitching in order.
Unlike last season, the starting rotation hasn't been the problem. Entering Friday, the Orioles had 10 quality starts, which ranked fourth in the American League, but the Orioles were also 4-6 in those games. The Orioles starters received 45 runs of support entering Friday, which was second lowest in the majors.
They could feel good about the offense — which scored three runs or fewer in 16 of the team's first 23 games — after scoring nine runs in two games against Tampa Bay, even with several missed opportunities Thursday.
"We've been swinging the bats better the last couple of nights," said Jones, who had three hits Thursday, including a two-run homer. "It hasn't resulted in any Ws, unfortunately, but at this point we've got to try to find anything that's positive. We put up  hits. … We had more hits than them [Thursday]. I think that's one of the first times all year we've actually done that. We've just got to keep swinging the bats."
The Orioles have caught themselves in a place that bad teams land. When they pitch well, they haven't been able to score. When they hit, the pitching struggles. A team that's had a defensive mindset has committed its share of errors, including Thursday, when it had three.
"Hopefully we put it together," said third baseman Danny Valencia, who also homered Thursday. "It's definitely frustrating in here. We've got a lot of guys with a lot of pride in here. … We'd be lying if we said this is where we thought we would be at the beginning of the season. We kind of gave ourselves a decent hole. This is the type of team that's pretty resilient. We have a lot of good players in here. It's easy to forget about that because you see the wins and the losses. I strongly believe that we have the capability of getting on a streak. It starts tomorrow, winning one and hopefully build some momentum."
Jones said salvaging the season starts with doing the little things right, and starting with small goals.
"We just have to come out and win the innings," he said. "Right now, we're just not winning the innings. It sucks, but the guys in here are not down on themselves. … It starts with the small things. … We just need to do something to allow the starters to relax because they've been the ones who have been doing a really good job this year and the offense just hasn't picked them up."