ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The losing streak has reached a season-high six games. That’s nine losses in the last 11. The Orioles have dropped out of first place for the first time since May 5.
It’s no longer fun.
“Frustration?” manager Buck Showalter asked, repeating a question. “They’ve got a lot of confidence. They’re a mature group. They understand. We’ll get it going again. Hopefully tomorrow.”
It better happen soon.
Wei-Yin Chen surrendered all five of his runs and hits in the first inning, digging a hole too deep for the Orioles. Rays starter David Price just kept kicking in the dirt.
Showalter didn’t appreciate a reporter’s suggestion that the game was an uphill battle after that inning.
“We don’t think that way,” he said. “You may. That’s not the world we live in. We had a couple opportunities there to open him up with the right people up and we didn’t quite do it. Hit a couple balls right on the button.
“I’m real proud of Chen after the first and our whole pitching staff. Obviously, your point there is he’s one of the best pitchers in the game, but that’s their strength. They’re capable of running six or seven guys out there every fifth day and you know you have to match them pitching-wise and we just didn’t get off to a good start there. They were due. They did a lot of good things execution-wise in the first inning.”
Chen retired the last 10 batters he faced and 12 of 13. So what happened in the first?
“Just his command a little bit,” Showalter said. “He got a lot crisper with his breaking ball and started attacking hitters. I think we all need to keep in mind, and I know I do, this is a rookie pitcher basically. Pitching in venues against competition he’s never done before, and he’s handling it real well. A lot of guys would have pulled the tent in after that first inning and he didn’t. This is a guy who’s presenting a pretty good makeup. He’s a competitive young man and I’m proud to have him.”
The Orioles might be trying too hard. Steve Tolleson tried to take second base on J.J. Hardy’s fly ball to center field in the sixth inning, and was tagged out before Bill Hall could cross the plate.
“Stevie’s a good fundamental player,” Showalter said. “He’s just wanting to make something happen for our club. It’s one of those things where he knew as soon as he did it, but that’s not the game. The game is Price and the first inning. We had some opportunities. You know you’re going to get one or two pops at him if he’s on top of his game and we just couldn’t take advantage of it.”
The Orioles haven’t won in a week, though Showalter joked that they were off yesterday, so that doesn’t count as a loss. He’s trying to maintain a sense of humor.
“We’re going to have to start doing some things that we’ve been doing to get to this point and be competitive,” he said. “We’ve just got to get off a little bit better with our start pitching-wise. But it’s all phases. Until we get at full strength... Tampa’s got challenges physically. Everybody does. Part of it. You’ve heard me say it 100 times. Your depth is always tested over a season. We’ve just got to stay within ourselves.
“There’s a fine line between trying to make something happen and pushing the envelope when it’s not there.”
A scoring change now gives Wilson Betemit a single in the eighth inning, removing the error from second baseman Ben Zobrist.