I can't speak for all Orioles fans of course, but I think that for a large number of us, we're just always waiting for the other shoe to drop. It doesn't matter that the Orioles have 172 wins over the last two seasons or that they went to the playoffs just two years ago. When they go through a stretch like this, we wonder, "Is this it? Is this when it all goes back to the way it used to be?"
I don't know what it's like to be a fan of other teams, I only know what it's like to be an Orioles fan. And even though it feels like we've come out of the dark days, the long stretch of bad years has undoubtedly taken its toll on us. So right now things feel really bad, and you might be wondering if you were duped into thinking this team might be good in 2014. I know how you feel, but I'm asking you to keep the faith for just a little while longer. It's only been five games. If they are still looking bad in a few weeks, maybe it will be time to panic a little. But we're not there yet. A four-game losing streak in July against two of the best teams in baseball would be frustrating, but not reason to lose hope.
So, today's game. The Orioles were hapless for eight innings, but managed to put some excitement into the game in the top of the ninth, after many of you had probably tuned out. Their five-run rally was exciting but left them one run short of tying the game. A loss is a loss, but it does give a tiny bit of optimism about this team that they were able to turn it on at all. They showed a lot of life and for the first time this season looked almost like the team that I thought we were getting.
Just as they did yesterday, the Orioles got on the board in the first inning. David Lough walked and stole second base to get himself into scoring position, and with one out Chris Davis singled to left field. Lough scored easily but Davis tried to stretch his hit into a double and was thrown out easily by Rajai Davis. And they started off well in the second inning with two singles, but a double play by Matt Wieters ruined the fun, and from then on it was the Rick Porcello show. He just shut down the O's until he left the game in the seventh inning.
After four, um, uneven performances by the starting pitchers to start the season, the pressure was on Bud Norris to snap the team out of its funk. He looked up to the task in the first inning, with a quick 1-2-3 inning, punctuated by a strikeout of Miguel Cabrera. It was the first 1-2-3 inning by an Orioles starter this year, which is so pathetic that I can't even say any more about it. He had another good inning in the second in which he gave up a single but got a double play to end the inning. But in the third inning, things fell apart.
With one out the bases loaded thanks to three singles, Norris faced Torii Hunter. I was hoping for a double play and I'm sure Bud was too, but that's not what happened. He hit a fly ball deep to left field that dropped just inside the foul line for a double. The bases cleared to give the Tigers a 3-1 lead. Thankfully Norris was able to get retire both Cabrera and Victor Martinez to end the inning.
Torii Hunter struck again in the fifth inning, this time with a two-run home run. After a Cabrera double, Norris got two fly balls to end the inning and his day. His final pitching line: 5 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 2 K, 1 HR.
Brian Matusz followed Norris and he was bad. Just bad. With one out he walked Alex Gonzalez (career OBP .290), and then Don Kelly launched a ball to right-center field that got to the wall between Nelson Cruz and Adam Jones. Davis then scored on a sacrifice fly. After another single and a walk, it was Matusz vs. Cabrera and to the surprise of everyone who knows anything about either Brian Matusz or Miguel Cabrera, Cabrera struck out to end the inning.
After Even Meek and Darren O'Day pitched one scoreless inning each, the Orioles went into the ninth inning looking totally cooked. But the cure to their ills was a guy named Phil Coke. Coke had a very bad 2013 and the Tigers fans had little patience for him, booing him almost immediately. Coke faced four batters and retired just one. Chris Davis singled and then Adam Jones tripled to almost the same place that Kelly had a few innings earlier. After a Nick Markakis RBI groundout, Coke walked J.J. Hardy, which is almost impossible.
Coke was pulled for Al Alburquerque, who wasn't any better. Matt Wieters singled, and Alburquerque was pulled for the closer, Joe Nathan. Nathan was greeted by a single from Steve Lombardozzi to load the bases, and Buck Showalter sent Steve Clevenger in to pinch hit for Jonathan Schoop. It was a good move considering Schoop has looked totally lost at the plate. The Pride of Pigtown hit the first pitch he saw to right field. It bounced into the stands for an automatic double, scoring two runs.
David Lough hit a ground ball to shortstop and Alex Gonzalez was so worried about looking the runner back to second that he forgot that David Lough is very fast. He hurried the throw and Lough beat it as Cabrera had to come off the base. A run came in to score and suddenly the Orioles were down by only one.
Two runners on, down by one, one out, and Cruz and Davis were coming to the plate. Kind of what you want in that situation, right? Unfortunately the magic ran out. Cruz worked the count full before striking out swinging. The pitch was low and outside and just out of the strike zone. It was tough. The last hope was Davis, and while it would have been a great time for his first home run, instead he popped out to end the game.
There are five games down and the Orioles have a 1-4 record. Tomorrow they will try to avoid the sweep against Justin Verlander. So, no problem.