This one got ugly early.
Really, really ugly.
Maybe it's a good thing only 14,032 braved the heat and humidity at Camden Yards to see it.
If you're an Orioles fan, here's the announcement you probably don't want to hear in the second inning with one of your promising young starters on the mound: "Mark Hendrickson is now warming in the bullpen."
In this case, the promising young starter was left-hander Brian Matusz, who lasted just 52 pitches Sunday and was shelled for five hits and six runs in just 1 2/3 innings in the Orioles' desultory 10-1 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.
The series sweep by the Jays left the Orioles with an 0-9 record this year against a Toronto team that is not exactly the 2009 New York Yankees. It also wiped out any momentum the Orioles generated from their four-game sweep of the American League West-leading Texas Rangers before the All-Star break, which now looks like a fluke.
Worst of all, it might have signaled the beginning of the Orioles' usual cataclysmic second-half collapse.
I know, I know -- I'm a regular Mr. Sunshine today, huh?
And Andy MacPhail is surprised people are wondering why a new manager hasn't been named already?
Here's what the Orioles' president of baseball operations told The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec about the managerial search Thursday: "It's not dragging. Again, there is no timetable here. It's not like the barn is on fire here."
OK, that was three days ago. That was before this latest three-game meltdown.
But I would submit to you now that not only is the barn on fire, but there's probably a lot of charred livestock in there, too.
Somebody had better dial 911 and fast, before this team ends up losing 110 or 115 games and setting back the rebuilding program even further than it already is.
This is how bad it got Sunday: The young girl racing in from right field for the Esskay "Steal Second Base" promotion got the biggest hand of the day -- by far.
Otherwise you were basically looking at the same Orioles who death-marched through the first half of the season.
Let's go down the list of the old problems again, shall we?
Listless offense? Check, we saw that again. The Orioles were 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position Sunday. (They're now hitting .228 in such situations on the season.) And they scored just total five runs in the three games against the Jays.
"I think we're just beating a dead horse here," interim manager Juan Samuel said with an edge to his voice when asked about the offense. "We just need to move on from that."
Hmm, even the quotes sound like the Orioles of the first half. Didn't poor Dave Trembley use that line? About 100 times since Opening Day?
Inconsistent starting pitching? Check, we saw that again, too.
This was the shortest outing of Matusz's career. He's 3-10 and struggling big-time with his mechanics.
Apparently his left shoulder is flying open, which explains why his pitches have been all over the place of late.
Me, I'd be more concerned with his alarming lack of velocity at times. Exhibit A would be the 88 mph fastball he threw to the Jays' Yunel Escobar with the bases loaded in the second inning, a pitch Escobar promptly drove into the left-field stands for a 5-1 lead.
"Hopefully, he can get it straightened out with [pitching coach] Rick Kranitz in the bullpen, look at some video and see what's going on," Samuel said.
Well, OK. But they had better run a lot of videotape. Because Matusz looks confused as hell right now. Samuel keeps referring to his young lefty as a tough kid. And I have no doubt the kid is tough.
But there's also no doubt he looks nothing like the guy who pitched to a 3.93 ERA in his first six starts against such quality teams as the Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.
Then there were the fundamental breakdowns in this series that reminded you of the first-half Orioles.
They failed to get a sacrifice bunt down two times in their 3-2 loss Saturday night. Corey Patterson got picked off in that game, too. Left fielder Felix Pie struggled and took bad routes on a couple of balls Sunday.
All in all, too many flashbacks to the way the Orioles played from April to the All-Star break.
"It was just a bad day," Samuel said. "At this point, we just have to regroup and go get 'em."
Fine. But we all know what happens when this team strings together bad days in July, August and September.
And no one wants to see it again this year.
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