Losing Their Way

With Defeat, Orioles Tie For Their Worst Record At This Point Of Season Since 1991

August 07, 2009|By Dan Connolly | Dan Connolly,dan.connolly@baltsun.com

DETROIT -- Orioles players and management knew that by handing the ball to a youth movement this season, especially for the perpetually brutal second-half schedule, the club's win-loss record could end up unseemly.

If the first 20 games after the All-Star break are any indication, however, the Orioles could continue to teeter on a near-historic line of futility for the franchise.

After losing, 7-3, to the Detroit Tigers Thursday afternoon, the Orioles have dropped six of their past seven and 15 of 20 since the All-Star break. They are a season-worst 18 games under .500.

Perhaps most disheartening given the backdrop of 11-plus years of anguished ineffectiveness, the Orioles' 45-63 record ties for their worst mark at the 108-game point since the 1991 club went 43-65 en route to a 95-loss season.

"You've got to understand who we are, what we have, the direction we are going," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "We have a lot of young players. Look at our starting staff. There's no secret there. There is one guy there [Jeremy Guthrie] that was there at the start of the year. They are all new kids."

One of those kids, David Hernandez (3-4) lasted just three innings Thursday, yielding five runs on seven hits and two walks. It was the 24-year-old's 10th start in the majors, and his shortest.

"I think that's what you are going to get out of young guys. You are going to get inconsistency," Trembley said. "You are going to have a couple great ones, you are going to have so-so and you are going to have bad ones. Today was a bad one."

The Orioles were trailing 6-0 before they picked up their first hit, a single by Ty Wigginton against Detroit's 20-year-old rookie Rick Porcello (10-7) to lead off the fifth inning.

The Orioles scratched out single runs against Porcello in the fifth and sixth and one more against the Tigers' bullpen in the eighth, but the game was well out of hand by then.

"Losing is not fun," said Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts, who had one of the Orioles' seven hits Thursday and has hit safely in nine of his past 10 games. "I think we are all trying to focus on the future, but day-in and day-out we are still here to do our jobs and we are still here to win games. And that's not happening."

Only Melvin Mora, who is a free agent at season's end, has been with the club longer than Roberts, who debuted in 2001. That year, the Orioles also were 45-63 at the 108-game mark, and on their way to a 98-loss season, third worst in franchise history.

Roberts said he had no idea that this team's record was as poor as that 2001 club's - and worse than that of any other he has been on at this juncture of the season.

"I would have never guessed that. I haven't really looked at our record in a while," Roberts said. "It's probably because of the excitement I am sure the fans feel. Even us as players, it is good for us to have that youth come in here, and not just any youth, but hopefully youth that will take us where we want to go eventually. I guess that's the only reason it doesn't feel that way."

After losing three of four in Detroit despite being outscored only 19-18, the Orioles head to Toronto for three games starting tonight and then come home to host the Oakland Athletics for three more. They then begin a 35-game stretch in which 29 are against teams that are over .500.

"When you are getting beat, they are all tough stretches," Trembley said. "It doesn't matter who you are playing. It doesn't matter where you are playing. There is none any easier than another one."

What keeps Trembley and his players going, he said, is knowing how much talent this team possesses despite its youth.

In the Toronto series, the Orioles will use three starters who are a combined 2-9 in 13 major league starts.

In the minors this year, that same trio - Jason Berken, 25, Chris Tillman, 21, and Brian Matusz, 22 - combined for a 22-9 record.

"You do take some solace in the knowledge of knowing that you are running a lot of new guys out there that this is their first time," Trembley said. "For a lot of these guys, this is the first time anybody has really failed. They have all been very successful."

The Tigers series showed the good and bad of these new-look Orioles.

Matusz, the club's first-round pick last year, won his big league debut with 2007 first-round pick Matt Wieters behind the plate.

Tillman pitched well enough to garner rave reviews from the Detroit manager Jim Leyland. And the Orioles, until Hernandez's rough start Thursday, were in every game with the American League Central-leading Tigers.

"Everybody learns from this experience. There's nothing like playing at the highest level. That's what these guys are doing," Trembley said. "They're not getting beat by American Legion teams. They're facing the best that there is, and that's how you get better."

Box score

for Thursday's game PG 4

ORIOLES @BLUE JAYS

Tonight, 7:07

TV: MASN2

Radio: 105.7 FM

Inside

Hernandez falls in another rematch PG 5

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