ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The Orioles never wanted to be dependent on other teams to make the playoffs. Their remaining schedule contained games only against division opponents. Their fate rested in their hands.
Now, they need a helping hand or two.
Today's 3-1 loss to the Rays left the Orioles 4 1/2 games back in the wild card chase. Three teams separate them from the Indians, who currently hold the second spot.
"Basically, how it's going to turn out is we're going to have to win out and hope for the best on other sides," said center fielder Adam Jones. "We have to take care of our business. It's not easy playing the game as is, but we battle and we grind and sometimes it's like the saying Jim Thome used to use. Sometimes you're the bug, sometimes you're the windshield. Past couple days we've been the bug, so we need to get back to being that windshield.
"I don't think we can call around, call different teams and ask them to lose their games. We've just got to control what we can control. We can't control anything else except ourselves in this clubhouse. We're grown men in here. Live with the result when we're going out there giving it our all. Sometimes, you just fall short."
The Orioles have fallen short in their last four games after taking the first two in Boston. They need a win on Monday to avoid a four-game sweep at Tropicana Field.
"Obviously, we're up against the wall at this point," said second baseman Brian Roberts. "All we can do is try and grind out our last seven games and see what happens. But we've had a decent chance to control our own destiny a little bit and we haven't done what we needed to do yet. At this point, we certainly don't have a lot of options left except to win every game we have left."
"We can do it, we can do it," said manager Buck Showalter. "We're going to have to get a little cooperation mathematically, but you'd be surprised how quickly the outlook on things change in one day's time, so I try to keep that in mind."
The offense isn't scoring runs and isn't allowing the Orioles to go on a much-needed run. Today, they were shut out on one hit over 4 2/3 innings by Rays left-hander Enny Romero, making his major league debut.
"We see guys all the time we've never faced, so that wasn't the problem," Roberts said. "We're just having trouble coming up with hits. But you tip your hat, he did a fine job. But I certainly don't think that was our biggest problem.
"Hitting is the hardest thing in the world to do, so sometimes that happens. You fail seven out of 10 times, you're pretty good. So, at some point you're going to struggle. You're going to struggle as a team and you're going to struggle individually. Unfortunately, this isn't the best time, but that's part of it."
Said Jones: "He was throwing strikes. We hit two balls scalded right at guys. It's tough, but you've got to keep going. There ain't no pouting in this clubhouse, no (complaining), no crying. You've got to keep going.
"We needed to come in here and sweep this series. That's how our chances were. And we were unable to do that so far. Like I said, the guy, we've never seen him before. I think the second time around we started to have better at-bats and then he got yanked and they got into that bullpen. They scored a couple more and shut us down.
"We're facing good pitching, but you know me, that's no excuse. We're just not getting it done. Everybody here, it's not lack of effort. Sometimes, it's just how the game unfolds. And on our side, it's the wrong time for it to unfold. But there ain't no complaining in here. We're out here grinding out (butts) off and we can live with the results."
Asked whether the biggest issue is the starting pitching that they face each game, Showalter replied, "That's conventional responses because you always want to give your opponent credit, so you certainly start there. But one of the things people miss about the American League East is how good the starting pitching is. Obviously, nobody's been more consistent than Tampa. But we've solved that at times this year. We've had some good offensive games against good starters and so have they. It's just we're in a period when you compound those two things, good pitching and not being on top of your game at the level that our guys have spoiled us with this year. That's why it's probably so attention-getting is because of how good our guys have shown they're capable of being.
"They're pitching real well and we're a little kind of in between. There's a lot of things that you work on that you can't simulate in game speed. You're not frustrated with them, you're frustrated for them because it means so much to them. We just think one big game offensively and things would snowball, because we all know we're capable of better. There's a lot of factors, but none of the factors are anything that anybody else isn't faced with, too. It's part of it."
Like being fatigued, for instance.
"We're not going to talk about the schedule or time of games or travel and what time we're getting in," Showalter said. "If someone's not doing it now, I guarantee there were times this year they were doing it and we weren't doing it. So, it all evens out and I don't think anybody uses that as an excuse."
Scott Feldman surrendered three runs in 6 1/3 innings. He's allowed three earned runs or fewer in his last eight starts.
"Scotty's been solid," Showalter said. "He's very quietly put together another good year. He's a pro. Tough guy, knows how to pitch, going to keep you in the game. I like him.
"We got the tying run to the plate there. Had some good at-bats. Just wish we could get some of those few line drives we are squaring up to fall and get some of those soft ones that seem to be falling for your opponents when things are going like this."
Feldman allowed a leadoff home run to David DeJesus on the 10th pitch of the at-bat.
"Yeah, we threw him every pitch I had and he fouled off some of my better pitches and put together a good at-bat and then I left one over the middle and he hit it," Feldman said.
"I think I had decent command. Close game like that, I'd like to keep it at 1-0 there. Get the guys back in the dugout just down one. Unfortunately, they put together a tough inning on me in the sixth and put together a couple runs off me."
Feldman is slated to make one more start Friday night against the Red Sox at Camden Yards. Then he's done unless the Orioles put together their longest winning streak of the season and get some assistance.
"We would have loved to have won the first three, but the reality is that we didn't, so we have no choice but to keep playing hard, try to come out tomorrow and take that last game and keep playing hard the rest of the way and see what happens," Feldman said.
"Hopefully, we can string together a hot streak here to wrap things up."