Orioles right-hander David Hernandez pitches against the… (Getty Images )
It was somewhat surprising Tuesday afternoon when the Orioles showed up at the home clubhouse at Camden Yards as the same group that boarded the team charter Sunday in Minnesota.
As the loss total mounts and the hopelessness rises, it becomes more and more difficult to imagine the Orioles sticking with this current roster.
Starting pitcher David Hernandez and left fielder Nolan Reimold, two of the players on the shakiest ground, both had forgettable games Tuesday night as the Orioles were beaten by the Seattle Mariners, 5-1, in front of an announced 12,614 at rainy Camden Yards. The Mariners have 13 wins this season, four against the Orioles.
The Orioles' third straight loss featured Hernandez allowing five runs (four earned) in just 52/3 innings, and Reimold making two miscues in left field and striking out with a runner on third with fewer than two outs.
"I've been playing pretty bad," said Reimold, whose roster spot could be in jeopardy with outfielder Corey Patterson expected to get called up from Triple-A Norfolk and join the team today or Thursday. "I know I'm a lot better than this. I'm just going to keep fighting every day and turn it around."
The high point of the game for the Orioles (9-24) came in the seventh inning, when Garrett Atkins' bloop single off Mariners starter Cliff Lee dropped just inside the first-base line and brought home the Orioles' first run in 192/3 innings. That was the only run Lee would allow as he picked up his first win with the Mariners and became the 20th opposing starter in 33 games to pitch at least seven innings against the Orioles.
The Orioles were held to one run or none for the third straight game and for the 11th time in 33 games this season. They also have scored just two runs in their past 28innings, and have tallied six total runs this season during Hernandez's seven starts.
"I think he probably feels like he's got to go out there and throw a shutout, and you can't blame him for that because … he's got to be very well aware that we're not scoring any runs for him," manager Dave Trembley said. "So any mistake that he makes, he probably feels is going to cost him."
After dominating the Mariners' lineup with his fastball for the first four innings, Hernandez, who now has lost 11 straight decisions, the second longest stretch in team history, imploded in the middle innings against a team that came in averaging the fewest runs in the American League. He allowed five of the final eight hitters he faced to reach base.
"I really thought David was on his way to pitching one of his better games," Trembley said. The "first four innings, his fastball was outstanding. He was pitching down and then as soon as the guy hit the home run, he went to his breaking ball and changeup, and they added on some runs."
Hernandez gave up two runs in the fifth, allowing a solo homer to Ryan Langerhans, who had just one hit in his first 11 at-bats this season, and then issuing a bases-loaded walk to Chone Figgins, who is hitting .188.
Then in the fifth, he gave up back-to-back two-out walks and an RBI single to Rob Johnson, a .167 hitter, that scored two runs when Reimold fumbled and booted the ball.
"Just a bad play," Reimold said. "Just a botch and then it went between my legs. Pretty embarrassing."
Asked whether Reimold is having confidence issues, Trembley said: "I think it's apparent. I see him hesitant. I see him playing safety first. Better player than he's shown. Much better player than he's shown."
The Orioles also feel that Hernandez is a much better pitcher than his 0-5 record and 5.84 ERA indicate. But is he running out of time to show it?
Before the game, Trembley didn't mince words when it came to the 24-year-old pitcher, who figured to have a short leash with prospects Chris Tillman (3-3, 3.49) and Jake Arrieta (3-1, 1.67) pitching well at Norfolk.
"The bottom line is Hernandez has lost his last 10 decisions, so he has got to find a way to pitch better and win some games," Trembley said.
He appeared to be on his way to doing that Tuesday night when Hernandez retired the first eight Mariners that he faced, three of them on strikeouts.
"I talked to [catcher Matt Wieters] just right now and he said, 'That's the best stuff you have had in the first four innings that I ever saw you with,'" Hernandez said. "And I just felt like I could take something from this start and work on in my side session. I have to be able to throw my off-speed pitches over the plate to be OK at this level."
Only Mike Boddicker, who lost 13 straight decisions from Sept. 9, 1987 to May 14, 1988, has dropped more consecutive outings in an Orioles uniform than Hernandez has.
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