O's look to regroup after lost weekend in Houston

HOUSTON - In baseball, you are riding high one day and not the next. Or you have plenty of momentum and you are winning series against two of baseball's best teams one day and getting swept by a team starting to play well again the next.

When the Orioles rallied from 11 runs down to get within three late in the game at Houston Friday night, we were marveling at this team's effort and fight and ability to come back even when down double digits runs.

Now two losses later - games that were not close at the end - we are left wondering if the Orioles are a tired team? If they are now suddenly having pitching issues and if the injuries finally caught up to them?

The real question to answer here - and it may take days, weeks or even longer to begin to figure out - is has this team hit a bump in the road or a real big pothole? Is this just a few losses or the beginning of a longer downward trend? Are the Orioles not as good as they looked just, what seemed like hours ago?

My guess is this too shall pass, and this club will return to winning soon. They have bounced back so many times the last couple of years, what is another?

But their pitching took a beating twice at Minute Maid Park and they scored just one run on Saturday and one on Sunday. They have not had back-to-back games scoring one and one all year until this weekend. That it followed a two-game run where they scored 28 runs shows us how quickly the game can turn on you. How quickly you are on the top of the world and what seems like hours later scrapping for runs and wins.

Up until this weekend, the Orioles had gone 14-6 in a stretch where they beat the Rays, Phillies and Yankees and swept four on the road against Tampa Bay. They scored plenty of runs. They pitched pretty well.

They gave up just 10 runs in taking two of three at home versus Philly and gave up just 15 in winning the series in the Bronx. But they allowed 27 runs in Houston as their team ERA went from 3.13 to 3.38.

That ERA, as play began Friday, ranked first in the American League. Now they are still a quite good second, but have fallen again behind the Yankees in that stat.

O's players, coaches and skipper Brandon Hyde were getting asked a lot the past two days if the tough schedule has finally caught up to this team? They still have seven games left in a stretch of 30 games in 31 days where they are now 14-9 after being swept.

“I don’t think so," Hyde said after Sunday's 8-1 loss. "Thought we got beat by two good starters honestly the last two days. First night was flukey, weird. These last two we just didn’t have our best at-bats offensively against some starters that went deep in the game against us. And then we are facing some good Cleveland starters coming up. So, we’ve got to turn the page and get on to tomorrow.

“We’ve got to flush this one. Not a whole lot went right. We’ve got a real good Cleveland team coming into town. Let this one go and go get after them tomorrow," he said.

O's starting pitching is showing signs of cracks after a very strong run that took the rotation ERA to as low as 2.99 just a few games back. But now the club does not have a quality start over the past six games - that ties for the longest stretch this year without one. In the six games, the rotation ERA is 7.50.

After back-to-back rough starts for him, righty Albert Suárez was asked if the league is catching up to him?

“I mean, like I say, every day we have to come and make adjustments. If the league is adjusting, the way I pitch, I am doing the same. Just for me, it’s time you have to adjust and help the team to win," he said Sunday in Houston.

Ryan Mountcastle was asked about the club scoring just two runs the last two days.

“That’s baseball. Hitting is not easy," he said. "And you know, some days you are not going to have it. It is what it is.

"Can’t wait to get back home and try to get back on track. Lot of games left in this season. Excited for the rest of it.”

When the Orioles were swept by St. Louis from May 20-22, they immediately got back to winning. They went 20-7 coming into this Houston series. Now they have to start banking wins again.

Mounty had some postgame praise for Jordan Westburg. From New Braunfels, Tex., Westburg hit homers the last two games in his home state. But the O's got no other runs.

“He’s the same guy every day. Great teammate, great person. Works really hard and super excited for him. He’s having a great year," Mountcastle said of Westburg.

The same can be said of the Orioles. They are having a great year. Now we find out if its about to turn in another direction.




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