Baltimore Orioles: The struggles just don’t add up

The Baltimore Orioles are better than 5-13. They’re better than all of the miscues we’ve seen on the field. And they’re better than losing their fifth straight game, this one in walk off fashion in Detroit.

However what we’ve seen is what we’ve seen – through 17 games. But the fact is that most of their struggles quite simply don’t add up. Look back a couple of years at what’s still the core of this team; would one have thought that a team led by Davis, Jones, and Machado be performing like this, and losing games in the manner we’ve seen?

The Orioles got their eighth quality start of the season this afternoon, this time from Kevin Gausman. Gausman’s line: 6.0 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 4 K. Simply put, Gausman deserved better. But the good news for him and for the team overall is that the O’s did in fact manage to put runs on the board today.

Danny Valencia started the scoring off with a solo homer in the second, giving the Birds the lead. However one inning later Detroit followed suit with a solo home run from Candelario, tying the game. But Gausman hung in there, keeping the O’s in the game. And that’s all you can ask from a starting pitcher; that he puts his team in a position to win.

However Gausman would give up an additional solo homer to Cabrera in the sixth which gave Detroit a 2-1 lead. And yes, the Orioles squandered a few chances with runners in scoring position. However Manny Machado would come through in the clutch in the top of the eighth with an RBI-single to tie things back up at two.

The footnote of that sequence was that Craig Gentry managed to get a runner into scoring position by bunting. That’s obviously something we haven’t seen out of the Orioles too much yet this year, however Gentry laid down a great bunt. And in fact, he ended up getting aboard on a throwing error. Sometimes when you simply put the ball in play good things end up happening.

And for once it appeared that the Orioles were going to get fat off of someone else’s mistake. Adam Jones managed to score Gentry on a sac fly-RBI, and before you knew it the Orioles had the lead back at 3-2. And to top it off, Chris Davis would smack an RBI-single to give the O’s an insurance run.

That said, there was something very important about that single, and it’s the type of thing that happens to a team that’s struggling. Davis smacked the ball off of the wall, and it bounced back into play. Had it hit the wall just a little differently, it might have bounced over and been a two-run homer. But it didn’t – remember that.

Following back-to-back singles in the last of the eighth, Darren O’Day gave up an uncharacteristic three-run homer to Hicks, giving Detroit the lead back at 5-4. Ironically, Hicks’ homer smacked against the wall in the same manner that Davis’ single did. However his went over the wall, whereas Davis’ shot bounced back into the field of play. Again, this is the type of cruel irony that befalls struggling teams.

However there is some silver lining in this – the Orioles, while struggling, fought back. Luis Sardinas‘ solo homer in the ninth tied the game right back up at five. And win or lose, those are the Orioles that the fans have come to know – the team that keeps fighting. Unfortunately for the O’s and the fans, Detroit fought also. And being the home team, they got the last at-bat; and that last at-bat was a walk off home run to win the game for Detroit.

It’s too cliché to say this team invents ways to lose games. However while a lot of fans are justifiably frustrated with this team, the fact that statistical means indicate that they’re better than this should give people some hope. 5-13 is a tough hole out of which to dig out. But again, past performances indicate that these guys will snap out of this, which is exactly what Buck Showalter indicated after the game (quote courtesy of Steve Melewski, MASNsports):

You’ve got to stay the tide. When things are going real well, you can’t seem to do anything wrong. Those days are ahead. Those things can happen but you can’t just wait for them to happen. This is a tough level of play, and you’ve got to be clicking on a lot of different areas in order to put together a good string of wins.

Translated: stay the course. As I said, career statistical means indicate that this team is much better than that. It’s easy to fall into the trap of saying that they aren’t with it emotionally or mentally – especially when the results back up that point. But the fact is that what we’ve seen thus far just doesn’t add up or make sense. And unless this is the bizarro world, at some point it’ll have to make sense.

The series concludes this afternoon at Comerica Park. Alex Cobb gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Detroit’s Jordan Zimmerman. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.

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