Flashback to Wednesday May 10th in Washington, where the 22-10 Orioles cruised into the bottom of the 8th inning holding a 6-2 lead over the Nationals. Looking set for an MLB-leading 23rd win, just over two weeks later, nobody could have predicted the immense disaster which would soon follow.
Throughout the course of that game, and the following 14, the Orioles have nosedived, losing 12 of 15. They have slipped from being comfortable in first place, to now occupying third – some 3.5 games behind the Yankees (28-18) and 1.5 behind the Red Sox (27-21). At this rate, they will be in last place by next weekend, as the Rays (26-26) and Blue Jays (23-26) rapidly close the gap.
During the horrendous stretch, a number of key bats have gone quiet, namely Manny Machado (.224, 13-for-58), Chris Davis (.222, 12-for-54), Jonathan Schoop (.207, 12-for-58), and Seth Smith (.205, 9-for-44). As a team combined, they have scored 66 runs in 15 games, an average of 4.4 per game. While not disastrous, with the pitching seen on this roster, it is just not enough to win most games.
The pitching, which has allowed 83 runs (5.5 per game) during the 15-game skid, has been marked by blown leads, of which there has been 12. The over-worked bullpen is faltering and the Norfolk-Baltimore taxi is frequently in transit – 14 relievers have been used in the month of May already. Of those who have really struggled this month, Vidal Nuno (9.00 ERA), Donnie Hart (9.00), Tyler Wilson (8.68), Brad Brach (6.00), Mychal Givens (5.91), and Stefan Crichton (5.06 ERA) lead the way.
The once-reliable Orioles defense has also been faltering, committing 12 errors in the last 15 games (0.80 per game). Prior to the skid, they committed just 15 in 32 games (0.47 per game). During the rough stretch, these mistakes have proven costly too , to the tune of seven runs – three of which came in the 3-1 loss to Toronto last Sunday.
At 25-22, the Orioles still own a better record than 10 of the other 14 teams in the American League and somewhat miraculously, still occupy the second wildcard position should the postseason commence today. This, more than anything else, is a sign of just how weak the American League is this season. That in mind, the slump seen by the Orioles is all the more frustrating given the opportunities a weak League presents.
While the season is still young and the team remains capable of turning their poor form around, the slump needs to end soon, before all the good work throughout April and early-May, where they reached as many as 12 games above .500, has been completely wiped out.