Toughing it out on the road

The Orioles just completed a 2-4 homestand. They’ve lost five of their last seven games. They no longer have sole possession of first place in the American League East.

No reason to panic, right? These things happen. Every team goes through these phases.

For me, it’s almost like the Adam Jones contract extension was a shiny object jiggled in our faces, providing a distraction from all the losses.

Two out of three to the Royals? At home?

Not good.

We had a feel-good weekend with news that Jones would be an Oriole for at least six more seasons. Maybe some of you lost track of the defeats. Maybe some of you are forecasting doom.

I’m saying that the Orioles are approaching a big series in Toronto. They need to regroup in a hurry and not make fans feel like the fast start was fool’s gold.

Tommy Hunter and Jake Arrieta, two starters who are struggling, open the three-game series in Toronto. It’s on them. And if they need further motivation - and I seriously doubt that they do - Zach Britton is nearing a return. He could wrestle a rotation spot from one of them.

Maybe a stretch away from home is a good thing. The Orioles are 15-6 on the road this season.

Here are your matchups at Rogers Centre:

Tonight: Tommy Hunter (2-2, 5.07 ERA) vs. Drew Hutchison (3-2, 5.73 ERA)
Tomorrow: Jake Arrieta (2-5, 4.87 ERA) vs. Ricky Romero (5-1, 3.86 ERA)
Wednesday: Jason Hammel (6-1, 2.78 ERA) vs. Brandon Morrow (5-3, 3.47 ERA)

Stu Pomeranz is headed to the disabled list with an oblique injury suffered yesterday while he warmed up in the sixth inning. Until a few years ago, I didn’t know the oblique existed. Now everyone injures it unless they signed up for the intercostal strain.

We’ve got a roster move coming today. A position player is likely to take Pomeranz’s place, and the Orioles can decide between third baseman Mark Reynolds and outfielder Endy Chavez, who are playing at Double-A Bowie. Perhaps they activate both of them and make two moves.

I figured that Pomeranz was the first reliever to go once the Orioles were ready to add a position player, but I had no idea that an injury would factor into the equation.

You can’t question this team’s toughness, even as the injuries pile up.

J.J. Hardy is playing with a “barky” shoulder, as manager Buck Showalter described it. It’s more painful than it sounds, but he refuses to leave the lineup.

Matt Wieters suffers cuts in his mouth and on his ear after a violent collision at home plate, and he keeps playing. He was supposed to be out of the lineup yesterday - a routine day of rest - but he talked his way back into it.

Johnson delivers orange wide.jpgJason Hammel had his right knee drained and made his next start. Jim Johnson was laid out by a horrible case of food poisoning and practically had to be tied to his hospital bed to keep from leaving. He pitched three days in a row and was stirring in the bullpen late in the next game, even though Showalter insisted that someone else would have to close.

Nick Markakis couldn’t shake flu-like symptoms earlier this season, but he never considered taking a night off.

Is there a toughness culture developing in this clubhouse?

“I hope so,” Showalter said recently.

“It’s more that you don’t want to let your teammates down. That’s why with Adam, you’re not asking anybody to do anything you’re not willing to do yourself. That’s leadership in a lot of ways. It’s defining reality. You can define reality with your actions, and it doesn’t mean being stupid, either. That’s where I try to come in with J.J. and different guys.

“You’ve got to fight Jim Johnson. There was one time where he pitched and was probably a little bit of a push, but he just looked at Rick (Adair) and said, ‘Really? You’re kidding. We’re ahead and that’s my job. I’m going to pitch.’ Of course, we’ve taken that out of his hands a couple times.

“You look around. You see Nick playing 160, 155 games, through sickness and whatever. It’s not always the rah-rah and the words you say. It’s your actions sometimes.

“This is the most challenging physical sport there is because you play it every day. I got football and I got hockey and I got all that stuff. It’s tough and it’s physically challenging, but the every day, and to be there ... I still think it’s remarkable for me to watch a guy catch 130 games, catch six or seven days in a row. Sometime, sit up there and squat every time (Wieters) squats. If you mimick that ... And make yourself 6 foot 5.”

If you’re able to do that, please let me know how you made it happen.

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