I thought the Orioles had a chance to win three of four against the Boston Red Sox in this crucial four-game series.
Now I think they may be lucky if they don’t get swept.
To me, the Orioles’ best chance of winning games were Monday and Tuesday.
Monday, because I thought there might be a hangover for the Red Sox after they swept the New York Yankees and then had to fly to Baltimore from Boston late Sunday night.
And Tuesday, because it was the one instance in which the pitching matchup favored the Orioles, Kevin Gausman against former Oriole prospect Eduardo Rodriguez.
They lost both games, 5-2, and now their shot at the division title appears, well, shot.
The Orioles are supposed to be the home run bashers in the majors, but the Red Sox are the ones that have scored eight of their 10 runs from the longball in this series.
So far, the Red Sox, who now have a 9-8 series lead on the Orioles and are five games up in the American League East, have looked far superior in every category.
They’ve hit better, they’ve homered more and they’ve certainly pitched better.
Gausman was fine Tuesday, but he made two mistakes: One Jackie Bradley Jr. hit for a solo homer and one David Ortiz crushed for a three-run shot.
And, now, the Orioles’ backs are really against the wall. Forget the division race, they need some wins just to hold onto their AL Wild Card spot.
So they’ll turn the ball over to Ubaldo Jimenez, who has gone from pariah to potential messiah in about a month’s time. He’ll face Clay Buchholz, who, like Jimenez, was banished to the bullpen and now is back and performing solidly in the rotation.
If the Orioles lose that one, ace Chris Tillman will have to salvage the series Thursday – and he’ll have to do it against former Cy Young Award winner David Price.
Yeah, the immediate future isn’t getting any brighter.
How about that offense?
We’ve made so much noise about the Orioles’ starting rotation’s struggles, that we sometimes allow the offense to get a pass.
Not right now. The Orioles offense has scored two runs in each of the last four games and scored three or fewer in seven of the last 10.
With all due respect to Rodriguez, he hasn’t exactly been unhittable this year; he headed into Tuesday 2-7 with a 4.98 ERA.
And then he literally was unhittable until two outs in the fifth.
It wasn’t a strapping veteran that got Rodriguez, it was rookie Trey Mancini, who homered in his second at-bat in the majors to break up the no-hitter and the shutout.
The 23-year-old Rodriguez ended up allowing just two runs on four hits and a walk while striking out seven batters in 6 1/3 innings.
The Orioles – and this is going to be a surprise here – kept chasing pitches out of the zone, making Rodriguez appear dominating.
Not really sure what more can be said about their hitting approach, especially when they aren’t homering.
I will say one final thing about Rodriguez, whom the Orioles traded to Boston on July 31, 2014 in exchange for Andrew Miller.
Miller helped the Orioles to the American League Championship Series, but left via free agency that winter. And there is concern that Rodriguez, a lefty who is 12-13 with a 4.33 career ERA, will haunt the Orioles for years.
Maybe he will and maybe he won’t (I’d still do that trade, because Miller was a difference-maker).
But Rodriguez’s departure before he made his debut with the Orioles prohibited the club from getting one of the biggest international monkeys off its back.
Amazingly, the Orioles never have signed an amateur from Venezuela, developed him and brought him to the majors. Ever. And Venezuela is one of the most talent-rich baseball countries in the world.
The Orioles have had Venezuelan players in the majors before, of course, but never ones they signed and developed themselves.
Rodriguez likely would have been the first guy if he hadn’t been traded out of Double-A. Now he’s penciled in as the potential third starter in a Red Sox pennant run.
Cool moment for Mancini
If there is a silver lining Tuesday, it’s that Mancini homered in his first game in the majors. The only other Orioles to do that are Larry Haney (1966) and Jonathan Schoop (2013). The last time an Oriole homered for his first big league hit was Nick Markakis in 2006.
Mancini was given a curtain call by the Camden Yards crowd and couldn’t get a huge smile off his face.
There was a great MASN camera shot of Mancini’s mom in the stands cheering while brushing tears from her cheeks.
That’s one of the few times crying is allowed in baseball.