Homers hurt Guthrie, Orioles in finale
Losing streak at nine as Baltimore goes 1-9 on homestand
BALTIMORE -- It has no precedent. The Orioles struggled through the worst homestand in franchise history in the last 10 days, a run that was capped by an 8-6 loss to Tampa Bay on Thursday night. Baltimore went 1-9 on a 10-game homestand for the first time and allowed more runs (100) than any other 10-game stretch in the team's 54-year history.
Baltimore's previous worst 10-game homestand was a 2-8 stretch in 1987. The Orioles set another ignominious record last week, when they set an American League record for runs allowed in a 30-3 loss to Texas. Eight more losses have followed that rout, matching the team's longest losing streak (nine games) in this eventful season.
"It hasn't been pretty," said manager Dave Trembley. "It hasn't been pleasant. There's nothing else to say."
The last time the Orioles had an eight-game losing streak, manager Sam Perlozzo got dismissed and Trembley assumed his position. Strangely enough, Trembley was confirmed as next year's manager right before this skid started. Four of the nine losses have been by seven runs or more, and only two setbacks have come by two runs or fewer.
"I've never been through a stretch like this," said first baseman Kevin Millar. "At home, this isn't supposed to happen. You'll go through stretches on the road, but you don't lose nine games at home and win one. We've just got to be tough. The guys went out there and swung the bats. We battled, but we're coming out on the losing end way too much."
The Orioles jumped out to a three-run lead, but that evaporated by the end of the third inning. Baltimore's Jeremy Guthrie continued his flirtation with the long ball, allowing two home runs for the fifth time in six starts and for the eighth time this year. Seven of those have come since the All-Star break, and Guthrie is 0-4 in those games.
Shortstop Josh Wilson hit the road team's first homer, a solo shot in the third that made it a 3-1 game. A few batters later, center fielder B.J. Upton crushed a three-run homer to right field. Baltimore would come back to briefly take a lead, but Guthrie (7-5) gave up single runs in the fourth and sixth innings to push Tampa Bay (54-80) ahead for good.
"I continue to attack the hitters and they're putting some good swings," Guthrie said. "Sometimes, it's been good pitches [and] sometimes it's been bad pitches. But the thing I tried to stay away from is pitching around hitters and changing my approach. That's what gets you in trouble. I'm just trying to make adjustments in the strike zone."
Most of Baltimore's offense also came via the home run. Nick Markakis gave the home team a 3-0 lead with a three-run shot off Scott Kazmir in the first inning, and Millar made it a 5-4 game with a two-run job in the fourth. Baltimore (58-74) didn't score again until the ninth, and by that point the Devil Rays had built a comfortable lead.
Millar said the Orioles are putting out their best effort, even if it's not always evident on the field.
"The lack of effort's not the problem. The problem is we have to find a way to score more than the other team," he said. "We've got to find a way to execute pitches at the right time and we've got to find a way to hold leads. We've got to find a way to make plays on defense. This isn't team meeting time -- this is just a matter of turning this thing around."
Guthrie, who allowed two home runs just once in his first 11 starts, dealt with the media in a matter-of-fact manner Thursday night. He said that the thing that bothered him most was not holding the lead he was given early in the game.
"We've done a nice job jumping out to leads a number of times within our streak," he said. "I was just going out there trying to have the same approach each inning and not get comfortable. Unfortunately, they made a couple of good swings."
The Devil Rays scored once in the eighth and once in the ninth to extend their lead and add more numbers on a pretty telling statistic. The Orioles have been outscored, 72-11, after the sixth inning in their last nine games, and their bullpen has put up a 16.50 ERA in that span. Still, Baltimore brought the tying run to the plate twice in the ninth inning.
Trembley, who's taken each loss hard, said he was satisfied that his players kept their heads in the game.
"The four they put on the board in the [fourth] inning, it's just second nature [that] you're going to go, 'Here we go again,' in the back of your mind," he said of Tampa Bay. "To the guys' credit, we fought [and] we tied it up. It got away from us at the end, [but] we had some guys up there [and] they hit some balls hard right at them.
"It's really all self-explanatory, I think. It's just been a terrible week. A terrible week. But there's nothing you can do about it right now. I think everybody feels like they've let everybody down."
Things don't get any easier for the Orioles, who will take a three game road trip to Boston -- the first-place team in the American League East -- this weekend. The Red Sox are 7-4 against Baltimore this season.
"That's one good thing about baseball. We have a game tomorrow," said Millar. "What can you do? You keep fighting, you keep battling. Eventually, we'll get another win."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.