The Washington Nationals entered Friday night's game against the Orioles with a 19-inning scoreless streak, a major league-worst .223 team batting average and an offense performing so poorly that their designated hitter for the night, Matt Stairs, had two hits in his past 26 at-bats.
By night's end, they looked like the 1927 New York Yankees and the Orioles looked like a team at rock bottom.
How bad did things get? The Nationals hit the 12-run mark by the fifth inning after scoring that many runs in their previous five games combined. It only got more embarrassing from there for the Orioles, who fell, 17-5, in front of an announced 24,442 and now have given up 33 runs in their last 19 innings.
The 17 runs eclipsed a Nationals team record by two. The six home runs they pounded — two by one-time Orioles first-round draft pick Jayson Werth — also were a team record. Washington totaled 19 hits,and two of its players — Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos — finished a double shy of the cycle. Espinosa, who entered the game with a .194 average, had reached that point by the fifth inning, at which time he had already driven in five runs.
Washington's No. 7, No. 8 and No. 9 hitters — Ramos, Espinosa and Jerry Hairston Jr. — combined to go 8-for-13 with with nine runs scored and nine RBIs.
“I'd be less than honest if I didn't say that you think about that somewhat, but they're major league hitters who are capable of better, just like our guys are,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said when asked whether the Nationals' offensive struggles entering the game made the lopsided result even more difficult to accept. “I think it was probably a given they were going to hit better as the season progresses. It's just unfortunate it was against us tonight.”
It marked the just the fourth time in Orioles franchise history that they have allowed 13 earned runs or more in back-to-back games. The Orioles (19-24) have lost four straight games, continuing the downward spiral that started when they blew a six-run lead and lost to the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Monday.
Two days after that loss, the Orioles were beaten by the New York Yankees in 15 innings, which set the stage for a 13-2 loss to their American League East foes Thursday night. Then, there was this, a glorified round of home run derby at the hapless Orioles' expense.
If their latest loss wasn't as tough for the Orioles to digest as the previous three, simply because they weren't in the game after the Nationals' six-run fifth, it absolutely was harder to watch than any of the previous three.
“I don't know if it was the Boston game. Just things, collectively, aren't going very well,” starter Jake Arrieta said. “I'll take the blame for it. I didn't set the tone like I should have.”
After surrendering three earned runs or less in seven consecutive starts, Arrieta allowed six earned runs, six hits and three walks in 32/3innings. He needed 91 pitches to get just 11 outs, and that included a 37-pitch second inning that featured Espinosa's three-run home run.
And things just got worse when the game was put in the hands of the Orioles' bullpen, which has now given up 22 earned runs in the past 221/3innings, spanning four games.
Jason Berken inherited a bases-loaded, two-out mess in the fourth and promptly hit Werth with his first pitch, an apt beginning to another brutal outing for the right-hander. He surrendered six runs on five hits, including two homers, and a walk in one inning, raising his ERA from 5.06 to 7.94.
Berken, who has allowed 15 runs (14 earned) on 22 hits and eight walks in his past 82/3 innings, was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk after the game.
“It's frustrating,” Berken said. “I'm think I'm better than what I've shown. I know I'm better than what I've shown. There's nobody to blame but myself. I'm not going to sit here and make excuses.”
Berken was the designated long man on the night, and his inability to pitch more than one inning forced other relievers into more-extended roles. Clay Rapada followed him in the game and allowed one earned run on two hits and a walk, which automatically qualified him as the best Orioles pitcher on this night.
Much-maligned left-hander Michael Gonzalez then entered and absorbed two innings, allowing a solo homer in each frame. In Gonzalez's past five games, spanning four innings, he's surrendered 10 runs (six earned) on 10 hits, including three home runs.
Closer Kevin Gregg then pitched the ninth, surrendering Laynce Nix's two-run homer and three other hits.
“Guys aren't robots,” Showalter said. “They have emotions and feelings, too. They've got a lot of want-to, and that's what's really frustrating for a guy like Jason Berken, who's almost wanting it too much. I think Gonzo's going through that some, too. ... We've got a young pitching staff. You've got a lot of unknown about what they're going to bring. And we've got some guys who aren't necessarily young who are having their challenges, too.”
There was no better evidence to support that than Friday night.