The Orioles have had their fair share of offensive struggles recently, scoring five runs or fewer in each of their past five games.
It's not simply because they haven’t gotten enough men on base. In their four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays, the Orioles so far have gone 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position and stranded 17 runners overall.
Not surprisingly, the Orioles are at risk of dropping a series to the team with the worst record in baseball unless they can salvage a split Sunday afternoon at Camden Yards.
Though they mustered just three hits through the first seven innings of their 5-4 loss Saturday, the Orioles played themselves out of a pair of promising situations. In the first, center fielder Adam Jones and designated hitter Nelson Cruz, the heart of the order, couldn’t drive in Steve Pearce, who was on second base with one out.
In the following inning, third baseman Manny Machado grounded into an inning-ending double play one pitch after a single by J.J. Hardy.
Facing trigger-happy Orioles batters, Rays starter Erik Bedard cruised into the eighth inning on 82 pitches, having conceded just three hits — and he felt he wasn’t pitching all that well.
“I didn't think I had that good command,” Bedard said. “I didn't focus on that, so I just threw strikes and, at the end of the day, it came out like that.”
The Orioles have scored in the eighth or later in nine of the past 12 games, and they put up three runs in the penultimate inning Saturday. But they fell 90 feet short of completing the comeback when Cruz flied out with a runner on third.
Bedard ended the day at 87 pitches, 68 for strikes. No Orioles batter drew a walk.
“Apparently, he threw a lot of pitches that looked like strikes that we were chasing out of the zone,” catcher Caleb Joseph said. “He was on today.”
And so was Rays closer Jake McGee, who grounded the Orioles in the ninth to continue a series replete with missed opportunities.