The good news was there was no ninth-inning implosion that left the Orioles lamenting another potential victory that got away.
But in some respects, their 3-0 loss last night before an announced 21,148 at Camden Yards might have more galling because they were shut down by a well-traveled pitcher whom the Toronto Blue Jays acquired for cash considerations on the eve of spring training.
Dana Eveland, a 26-year-old left-hander with his fourth big league team, turned in 7 1/3 shutout innings, allowing only five hits and four Orioles to reach scoring position.
The poor offensive performance marred what was a solid six-inning outing by No. 5 starter David Hernandez and dropped the Orioles to 1-4 this season. They'll send veteran Kevin Millwood to the mound today to try to avoid starting their first homestand with a three-game sweep at the hands of a team that the Orioles figure to be battling against all season for fourth place in the American League East.
"Hernandez went out there and threw a good game, and we put up a doughnut for him," said Orioles center fielder Adam Jones, who is now 1-for-17 since getting three hits on Opening Day. "We didn't swing the bats the way we normally do. That's the thing about baseball - we got 162 games. We're going to come out [today] and try to swing the bats. We got to swing them early and swing them often."
Shut down for most of the game, the Orioles did make some noise in the ninth against Blue Jays closer Jason Frasor. But with two men on, Frasor struck out Matt Wieters on three pitches and then got Nolan Reimold to pop out to pick up his third save and preserve Eveland's victory.
Eveland retired 13 of the final 15 Orioles he faced after Nick Markakis and Miguel Tejada reached base to start the fourth inning. He was removed from the game with one out in the eighth after Julio Lugo, who had two hits and a walk in place of the injured Brian Roberts, singled to left field. Scott Downs came in and got Jones to hit into a double play to end the inning.
"Eveland has pitched well against us," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "[He] changed speeds, kept the ball down, very few pitches up out over the plate. You tip your cap. He was on his game and pitched very, very, very well."
Eveland has now pitched 14 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings against the Orioles, who were also dominated by the lefty May 5, 2008, when he was a member of the Oakland Athletics. On that day, Eveland allowed only three hits in seven shutout innings.
"If you go back and watch the game, I guarantee you that you're not going to see too many pitches over the heart of the plate," said Ty Wigginton, who went 0-for-3 but made several nice plays defensively in his first start at first base. "Anytime a pitcher does that, they're going to be successful."
The Orioles had a base runner in each of the first five innings with their best chances coming in the second and fourth innings. In the second, Wigginton grounded out with runners on second and third and two outs. In the fourth, the Orioles had men on first and second and no outs; Garrett Atkins and Wieters flied out, and Reimold struck out looking.
While closer Michael Gonzalez's struggles and Roberts' abdominal injury have dominated most of the headlines recently, the Orioles' performance with runners in scoring position has factored heavily in the 1-4 start. The Orioles went 0-for-6 in such situations Saturday night and are now just 8-for-46 (.174) with runners in scoring position this season.
"We've played competitive baseball," Trembley said.
"We've had, for the most part, well-pitched games out of the starters. We haven't gotten the big hits when we needed them. Some games, obviously, we could have won, we haven't won them."
The silver lining to Saturday night's loss was the performance of Hernandez, who beat out Chris Tillman this spring for the fifth starter spot and backed that up by holding the Blue Jays to two runs on six hits and four walks over six innings.
Blue Jays catcher and No. 9 hitter Jose Molina accounted for both runs off Hernandez. He was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to force in a run in the fourth, and he had an RBI single in the sixth, finishing 2-for-3 with two RBIs. Molina only had 11 RBIs all last season.
In the two at-bats in which Molina drove in a run, the Orioles intentionally walked the left-handed hitting Travis Snider to get to him.
"I've actually had pretty good success against Snider in the minor leagues, but I just felt like going after Molina was the better option," Hernandez said. "I just didn't make good enough pitches, and he put a couple good swings on it."