Blue Jays shortstop Alex Gonzalez, left, tags out the Orioles'… (Canadian Press photo by…)
TORONTO — — When the 2010 season began eight weeks ago, it was widely believed that the Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays would battle all year for fourth place in the American League East, with the loser falling with a thud to the division basement.
But after three days here at Rogers Centre and after six games between the two teams, it is clear they barely belong on the same field, never mind in the same conversation. The Blue Jays finished a sweep of the Orioles on Sunday with a 6-1 victory before an announced 15,878, whipping the visitors in every way and sending them into today's day off with a five-game losing streak and a series of questions, including whether manager Dave Trembley will still have a job come Tuesday.
Instead of taking some pressure off their beleaguered manager, the Orioles turned up the heat on him with their woeful play, and it's getting increasingly harder to believe that owner Peter Angelos and president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail can stick with Trembley under these circumstances.
"We just have to play better baseball," said Orioles third baseman Miguel Tejada, who hit into a double play to end his team's latest inept offensive performance. "He's doing the best he can to get us to play better baseball. I know they always blame the manager, but I think as players, we have to start to pick it up."
The Orioles (15-36) were so dominated in the series, in which they were outscored 16-3 and held two leads for a total of 12 pitches, that when players said they were looking forward to starting a three-game road series with the reigning world champion New York Yankees on Tuesday, you actually believed them.
Against the surprisingly potent Blue Jays this season, the Orioles have been outscored 31-11 in six games, all losses. The last time Toronto won its first six games against the Orioles in a season was 1987. The Orioles have also lost 17 of their past 19 games at Rogers Centre.
"We came in here playing a team that is playing very good baseball," said Trembley, whose team has dropped 12 of its past 15 games. "They got great starting pitching, they played good defense and they got timely hitting, especially the home run ball."
Blue Jays left-hander Ricky Romero became the latest starter to render the Orioles punchless, allowing just a first-inning run on Nick Markakis' RBI single en route to a six-hitter. In the series, Toronto starters went 3-0 with a 1.00 ERA, struck out 25 and walked just four in 23 innings. They also held the Orioles to a .207 average.
Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston went to the bullpen just four times in the series. Trembley used three pitchers in the eighth inning alone Saturday. The Orioles had one extra-base hit in the series, Cesar Izturis' double Saturday, which stands as their only extra-base in their past 42 innings. The Blue Jays, meanwhile, belted three more homers Sunday and had nine in the series.
"The home run ball was the difference in the entire series," Trembley said.
Orioles starter Jeremy Guthrie had stayed away from it Sunday until the sixth inning, when he served up a solo shot to Lyle Overbay, his third over the past two games. But what primarily bothered Guthrie (3-5) was the three runs he surrendered in the first, all with two outs.
Vernon Wells tied the score at 1 with a double, and after a walk to Jose Bautista, Guthrie allowed back-to-back RBI singles to Alex Gonzalez and Overbay.
"The loss really was dictated by that first inning," said Guthrie, who gave up four earned runs on seven hits and three walks over six innings. "I take full responsibility on this one. Big run against Romero in the first, and I had a chance to get out of that inning, but then you get the pitch up to Vernon Wells and he did a nice job."
Presented the 3-1 lead, Romero was barely tested again, allowing only one Oriole to reach scoring position the rest of the way, and that was a result of Gonzalez's throwing error on Adam Jones' infield single in the fifth.
"I don't want to say I'm frustrated, because it's not a good word for a professional baseball player," Tejada said. "It's a bad couple of months. We got four more left, and I hope we play better baseball."
The question is: Will they do it with Trembley as their manager? MacPhail and Angelos have met at least twice over the past two weeks to discuss the team's struggles -- and undoubtedly Trembley's status.
As of Sunday afternoon, there were no plans to make a managerial change today, although all indications are that it could come soon. MacPhail is not currently with the team on the road, but New York is only a three-hour train ride from Baltimore.
It should make for an uneasy Memorial Day for Trembley, his staff and his players, though they'll probably be happy to be anywhere but Toronto after the beating they absorbed here over the weekend.