The importance placed on the Orioles' three-game series at Yankee Stadium this week was unmistakable, especially given the opportunity they had to gain ground on the division-leading New York Yankees.
But for such a potentially impactful series, the Orioles left the Bronx with barely a whisper, swept in a three-game series at Yankee Stadium for the first time under manager Buck Showalter with a 9-3 loss to the Yankees in front of an announced 46,875 on Thursday afternoon.
The Orioles dropped to 19-30 on the road this season with their ninth loss in their past 12 games away from Camden Yards. They couldn't leave New York quick enough, looking to salvage their nine-game road trip with three games against the Tampa Bay Rays this weekend
"What else are you going to do, dwell on it? No man. That's not good for sports," said Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, who was 0-for-4 Thursday and 2-for-12 in the series. "It's not good for your own [mentality]. So hey, we've lost three in a row before. Now let's go down to Tampa and clean it up. … The series is over. That's the good thing. Let's get the hell out of New York and go down to Florida."
Thursday's loss dropped the Orioles a season-high seven games out of first place in the American League East.
"Nobody in the clubhouse [is] crying," Jones said. "We got beat. It's a very good team over there. Go to Tampa and do what we've gotta go. There's  games left. Nobody's crying, man."
Still, these Orioles (46-48) are in desperate need of a spark, having lost 14 of their past 19 games and six of seven at Yankee Stadium this season. After suffering their first three-game sweep in the Bronx since June 1-3, 2010, the Orioles are two games below .500 for the first time since June 10.
Following last Friday's loss in Detroit — the Orioles' 11th defeat in 14 games — Showalter insisted the sky wasn't falling. And as he has done throughout the Orioles' current slide, Showalter continued to preach optimism.
"I don't get in that world," Showalter said. "There's too many challenges, too many games. You learn from it. Our guys will punch back. They're frustrated at today's game. You had a couple of one-run games [where] you couldn't push through against very good pitching. We got it again today. That's why they're leading the division. They're pitching better than everybody else."
The Orioles never owned a lead in the three games against the Yankees, falling behind early in each game. They lost the first two games by just one run apiece, but Thursday's rout was over quickly.
Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez had his shortest start of the season. He was charged with seven runs for his second straight outing, allowing 11 base runners (eight hits and three walks) over 2 1/3 innings.
Meanwhile, Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka (7-3) held the Orioles to five hits over 7 2/3 innings. The Orioles' only run off Tanaka through seven innings was Chris Davis' solo homer in the second. J.J. Hardy and Manny Machado also hit solo homers off Tanaka in the eighth.
Despite the three solo blasts, the Orioles scored just eight runs in the three games against the Yankees (53-41) and have scored three runs or fewer in 13 of their past 16 games.
"It's an up-and-down game," Jones said. "You've got to ride the roller coaster but mentally stay the same course. Stay even keel, and that's what we're doing. We're frustrated because we want to win. We're not frustrated because we're just going out there to give it up. … We just got beat. It happens in sports. Somebody's gotta win, somebody's gotta lose. It's not like we're laying down. We're just getting beat. It happens."
Jimenez (7-6), who has an 18.00 ERA and allowed four homers over his two starts since the All-Star break, ran into trouble early Thursday.
"I was making, executing my pitches down in the zone, and right now, I'm missing right down the middle," Jimenez said. "I'm missing right up the middle, and that's why they're putting better swings on the ball."
Preoccupied with Jacoby Ellsbury on first base following a leadoff single in the first, Jimenez — who threw over to first base three times during the ensuing plate appearance — walked the next two batters, loading the bases with no outs.
Jimenez nearly escaped the inning unscathed, striking out Mark Teixeira and inducing a flyout from Carlos Beltran.
But third baseman Chase Headley jumped on a first-pitch delivery over the plate and cleared the bases with a three-run double that one-hopped off the right-center-field fence. Shortstop Didi Gregorius followed with an RBI single to right to score Headley and give the Yankees a quick 4-0 lead.
"I put myself in trouble," Jimenez said. "I walked two guys and then I got two huge outs, and I didn't get out of the inning. I think I put the split down the middle [to Headley] and he put a good swing on it."
After Davis took an 0-1 pitch from Tanaka into the right-field seats for his 21st homer of the season in the top of the second, Ellsbury answered with a solo homer of his own in the bottom half of the inning.
Jimenez didn't last through the third after falling behind 6-1 on No. 9 hitter Stephen Drew's run-scoring double into the right-field corner, the last of three straight one-out hits off the Orioles starter. Another run was charged to Jimenez that inning on Ellsbury's sacrifice fly off Tommy Hunter.
The bottom of the Yankees order — Headley, Gregorius, catcher John Ryan Murphy and Drew — combined to go 6-for-8 with five RBIs against Jimenez.
"His command's been bothering him a little bit," Showalter said of Jimenez. "He's been wild in the strike zone. It's not like he's walking a bunch of people. He's a pitch away from getting out of that first inning and we're on our way, but he got a fastball right on the center of the plate to Headley and he paid a price. We just haven't swung the bats very well, either."
In a series where few things seemed to go the Orioles' way, luck continued to not be on their side.
The first inning was kept alive by Murphy's slow roller down the third-base line that Machado allowed to roll, hoping it would go foul, only to hit the third-base bag and remain fair. In the fifth inning, Murphy hit a ball up the middle to that hit off second base and bounced over Jonathan Schoop for an infield single.
That kept the inning alive for Ellsbury's two-out two-run double to left off reliever Bud Norris. Left fielder David Lough misjudged the sinking liner, and slid for it, but it skipped past him, putting the Yankees up 9-1. Ellsbury finished with three hits and four RBIs.
Hardy hit his sixth homer of the season in the eighth, sending a 2-0 fastball over the left-center-field fence. Two batters later, Machado hit his 21st homer of the season to left on a 1-1 delivery, chasing Tanaka from the game.
"He pitched well," Showalter said of Tanaka. "He's good, a lot of splits just like he's always been doing. You get those type of pitchers with that investment. He looks like he's back healthy. That doesn't bode well. Liked that they pushed him a little there in the eighth inning. We didn't do much off him, though."