The season officially ends today

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - We’re reached Game No. 162 in a season that offered such promise in May and a glimmer of hope in August, but otherwise disappointed to the highest degree.

It could result in the lowest finish.

No playoffs in another odd year. A losing record for the first time since 2011. A clear winter agenda for anyone who bothered to pay the slightest bit of attention.

duquette-at-opacy.jpgExecutive vice president Dan Duquette will list the rotation as the main priority. It also should be the second and third.

The challenge is finding upgrades without spending an exorbitant amount of money or stripping the farm system bare. Don’t just point out the problem without having a solution.

The defense slipped again for the second consecutive year. It’s no longer the envy of baseball. It’s unacceptable to manager Buck Showalter. The spring training drills may carry through lunch and dinner.

The Orioles began last night with 388 walks, the second-lowest total in the majors behind the Royals (386). They struck out 1,385 times to rank 10th in the majors and fourth in the American League. It’s a bad combination.

The Astros (1,076) and Indians (1,144) had struck out the fewest times in the majors. Check their records.

J.J. Hardy will be in the lineup today to perhaps close out his Orioles career. He’s 1-for-2 with a double against Rays left-hander Blake Snell.

Hardy doubled twice last night and made a couple of nice plays in the field, as if he wants to prove that he’s still got more in the tank.

“I don’t think he has to do that for us to know that,” Showalter said. “There’s a big heart there, and it’s pretty obvious what it’s meant for us not to have him for 88 games. Not necessarily offensively, just the things he does.

“He made a couple plays defensively that not many shortstops make cerebrally-wise, if that’s a word.”

We’ll accept it.

Adam Jones is 3-for-5 with a double and home run against Snell, but he’s not playing.

Does Chris Davis play against a left-hander? He’s struck out in both at-bats against Snell and is up to 193 in 127 games this season.

Trey Mancini walked twice yesterday, but his hitting streak ended at 17.

Kevin Gausman has the honor of making the first and last start for the Orioles. Time really does fly.

The Tuesday start in Pittsburgh appeared to be his last, but this is Gausman’s turn on normal rest and he wants it.

Gausman has matched last year’s innings total with 179 2/3 and today gives him the chance to exceed it. And giving up six runs to the Pirates in four innings was an unacceptable way to close out the season.

“For me, it kind of came down to looking forward to next year,” he said. “Obviously, I think we’re a team that can go deep in the playoffs. I think we have everything that we need. I think it would be good going into the offseason just kind of knowing that I’ve done it before, that I’ve gone 34 starts and just knowing that I can get through that would be good to know. I think that would kind of help me in the offseason to prepare for next year, hopefully make the playoffs.

“Hopefully, I can make 36, 37. Hopefully more. That was kind of the deciding factor. I kind of wanted to get over my innings, also.”

Gausman talked to pitching coach Roger McDowell, who relayed their conversation to Showalter.

“Roger came to me and he was like, ‘We’re planning on not pitching you on Sunday. It’s your day to pitch. If you want to pitch, you can pitch,’” Gausman said.

“He said ultimately he was going to talk to Buck and they were going to make the decision. I think Roger got the feeling that I wanted to. I kind of explained to them what I explained to you about next year and getting ready for that. I think like Roger said, it’s my day to pitch, and especially with Dylan (Bundy) not pitching now and (Jeremy) Hellickson, too. I just felt like it would be the right thing to do.”

One more game and players will scatter for the offseason. They’ve lost 18 of their last 22 and posted only two winning months. Plenty of blame to go around, but Gausman knows where it begins.

“I think it all started with us, with starting pitching,” Gausman said. “We just had multiple guys that didn’t go as deep into games as we would have liked. Because of that we had to make a lot of moves in our bullpen. There’s a lot of things that kind of trickle down when things like that happen, but I think any season kind of starts and ends with your starting pitching. Obviously, we didn’t go a (good) enough job of being consistent and I don’t think anybody here would disagree with that.”

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