As the losses continued to mount, most of the Orioles said that dropping 100 games didn't matter. They contended that it would be no different had they lost 95 games or any other bloated total that got them sent home for the offseason rather than to the playoffs.
Yet, when they beat the Toronto Blue Jays, 6-3, before an announced 23,254 on Saturday night at Camden Yards and ensured that there would be no 100-loss season, a sense of relief permeated the Orioles' clubhouse.
As it turns out, the current Orioles very much wanted to avoid becoming the third team in franchise history to lose 100 games. With their third-straight victory, the Orioles improved to 63-98 heading into this afternoon's season finale. The Orioles hadn't enjoyed a three-game winning streak since June 19-21, when they swept the reigning world champion Philadelphia Phillies on their home field.
"I've never used the term, '100 losses, who cares?' " said third baseman Ty Wigginton, who was one of five Orioles to drive in a run Saturday night. "That's not good. I don't want to be on one of those three teams. I think it's bigger than they make it out to be. Really, in the grand scheme of things, the most important thing is to get to the postseason and all of that, but at the same time, I don't want to be on a 100-loss team."
Wigginton was on the 2006 Tampa Bay Devil Rays, a team that went 61-101. Mark Hendrickson, who had another solid outing Saturday night for the Orioles, also was a member of that team, but he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in late June and never experienced the 100th loss. He said the Orioles' avoiding the century mark was "very important."
"Guys took some lumps during the season, but I think it is important next year that it is about wins and losses," Hendrickson said. "I think guys have experienced a very difficult division and had their good moments. But I think everybody just needs to really put the effort in mentally to get ready, knowing that they have kind of gone through a full season, so to speak, and just come back ready to work hard and ready to really apply what they learned this year."
The victory capped an uplifting three days for the Orioles. On Thursday, the Orioles beat the Rays, 3-2, to break a 13-game losing streak, the longest in the big leagues this year and the third-most consecutive losses in franchise history.
On Friday, before the start of the season's final homestand, president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail announced that embattled manager Dave Trembley would return for 2010, answering one of the few remaining questions of the season. Trembley's team then pounded the Blue Jays, 13-7, for their 62nd win.
The Orioles went out Saturday night and put to rest the last remaining question of the season. Without the victory, they would have needed a win in today's finale to avoid becoming the first team in franchise history to lose 100 games since the 1988 squad lost its first 21 games on the way to a 54-107 finish. The Orioles' only other 100-loss team came in 1954, their first year in Baltimore.
"We don't have to talk about it. I didn't think that was particularly prominent, although nobody wants to have to deal with something like that," Trembley said. "It certainly is a whole lot more pleasant coming to the ballpark knowing all this other stuff has been put aside, but it certainly is fun to win. It's really great to feel like, hey, you just play fundamentals, nothing too fancy, make the routine plays, knock the guy in. That's a great formula for success."
Trembley, as he is apt to do, pointed out that it all started with Hendrickson, who allowed three runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings. In four starts since joining the rotation after rookie Brian Matusz was shut down, Hendrickson went 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA and finished with three straight quality starts. His numbers would have looked even better, but the bullpen blew two of his potential victories.
He finished 6-5 with a 4.37 ERA, and though he is eligible to become a free agent, it appears that both sides are interested in reaching a deal that would bring him back for a second season.
Offensively, outfielder Jeff Fiorentino drove in two runs, and Brian Roberts, Cesar Izturis and Guillermo Rodriguez each had an RBI for the home team. Nick Markakis went 1-for-3 with a double and a walk, but he remained at 99 RBIs for the season.
When the series began, the Orioles were the team in turmoil. They were just a day removed from a long losing streak, and Trembley's job status was a hot-button issue. But in the past two days, reports have surfaced about clubhouse discontent among the Blue Jays toward manager Cito Gaston. Then early Saturday, Toronto fired general manager J.P. Ricciardi, ending his eight-year tenure.
Neither of those things, of course, are of great consequence to the Orioles players, who are just happy to be winning a couple of games.
Markakis, whose leadoff double sparked the Orioles' four-run fourth inning, played down the potential 100 losses, saying: "If it happens, it happens. In this case, it's not going to happen. The only thing that matters is to end the season playing well."
for Saturday's game PG 4