When the 10-game homestand started with a victory early last week, the Orioles were seven games under .500 with an upcoming stretch that allowed them to still harbor thoughts of a winning season.
They were just five days removed from enjoying back-to-back series wins over the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees, an uplifting run that factored in the club's decision to extend the contract of manager Dave Trembley through next season.
But when the homestand came to a merciful end last night and the players headed to the team bus - a road trip never before so welcomed - there was no distancing themselves from perhaps one of the worst on-field stretches in the 54-year history of the franchise.
An 8-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays before an announced 17,546 last night at Camden Yards secured a three-game sweep for the visitors and was the Orioles' ninth straight defeat, tying their high for a season that is growing horribly worse by the day.
The 1-9 homestand was the worst in club history for a homestand of 10 games or more and it came against two of the worst teams in the American League in the Devil Rays and the Texas Rangers and a Minnesota Twins club that is barely above .500.
Over the 10 games, the Orioles were outscored 100-44, including 74-11 from the sixth inning on. The 100 runs are the most the Orioles have given up in any 10-game span in team history.
"I've never been through a stretch like this," said first baseman Kevin Millar, whose two-run homer in the third inning had given the Orioles a 5-4 lead last night. "At home, this isn't supposed to happen."
Nor is giving up 30 runs in a game, the most a team has surrendered in the modern era, but the Orioles accomplished that on this homestand, losing 30-3 to the Rangers on the day Trembley's contract was extended.
Nor is surrendering 11 runs in an inning and the Orioles also did that to the Devil Rays in the first game of the series. During this staggering losing streak, the Orioles have held the lead in seven of nine games, including last night when Nick Markakis gave Jeremy Guthrie a 3-0 cushion with a three-run homer in the first inning off Devil Rays ace Scott Kazmir (11-8).
The Orioles' bullpen, which was exploited again last night, giving up two late insurance runs, has posted a 16.50 ERA in the past nine games, while the Orioles starters have a 6.11 ERA.
Trembley was succinct when summing up the state of the team after last night's loss, which clinched just the second Devil Rays' sweep of the Orioles at Camden Yards in franchise history.
"It's really all self-explanatory, I think," said Trembley, whose team starts a three-game series against the Red Sox tonight at Fenway Park. "It's just been a terrible week, a terrible week. But there's nothing you can do about it right now. I think everybody feels like they've let everybody down.
"Maybe we'll start a winning streak in Boston. That's the mind-set you've got to have. I don't think there's any other way to look at it. What's done is done. It hasn't been pretty. It hasn't been pleasant. There's nothing else to say."
There were just other Orioles to say it.
"Terrible," said third baseman Melvin Mora, repeating the word for emphasis. "It's kind of frustrating, especially after [Trembley] was named manager for next year. We need to turn it around. ... I don't feel sorry for [Trembley], I feel sorry for us, because we are the ones who play out there.
"I know sooner or later he's going to be effective. He does everything he can to win this game. ... We need to see something different, a different stadium, see more people, a crowd, and 35,000 people, so we can get excited. That's what I think."
At least this time, the Orioles' bullpen wasn't forced to shoulder all the blame, though Jim Hoey and Brian Burres did allow Tampa Bay to stretch a one-run lead into a three-run advantage with single runs in the eighth and ninth innings..
The Orioles (58-74) staged a minor rally off closer Al Reyes, who allowed an RBI one-out double to Corey Patterson that cut the lead of the Devil Rays (54-80) to 8-6. However, Reyes kept the eventual tying run off base, striking out Markakis and retiring Miguel Tejada on a liner to right.
"That's one good thing about baseball. We have a game tomorrow," Millar said. "What can you do? You keep fighting, you keep battling. Eventually, we'll get another win. ... This isn't team meeting time - this is just a matter of turning this thing around."
The Devil Rays took the lead for good in the sixth inning on Carl Crawford's RBI single off Guthrie that broke a 5-5 tie. In six uneven innings, Guthrie (7-5) allowed six runs (five earned) and eight hits, including two home runs, a shot to Josh Wilson to lead off the third inning and a three-run homer to B.J. Upton later in the frame that gave Tampa Bay a 4-3 lead.
It was the fifth time in six starts Guthrie has allowed two home runs and the rookie right-hander has now surrendered 19 homers over his past 14 games after allowing only four in his first 15.
"I'm sure everybody's pressing. That's natural," Trembley said. "No one's happy. We came out like gangbusters and put three on the board in the first inning and we thought, `Hey, we're off to the races. We're going to break this thing wide open.'
"We had some chances to do some things and blow it open, and we didn't. The four they put on the board in the one inning, it's just second nature [that] you're going to go, `Here we go again,' in the back of your mind."