BALTIMORE—The Orioles begin their longest road trip of the season on Friday in Washington. They’re hoping a return to the road might mean a return to winning.
The Orioles play three games against the Nationals, three more at Minnesota and four in Chicago against the White Sox before returning May 31st to Baltimore, where they are 6-18.
Since John Means no-hit Seattle on May 5th, the Orioles have lost 10 of 12. On Thursday, they were non-competitive in their 10-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays before 6,916 at Oriole Park. The Rays swept the three-game series, including Wednesday night’s game in which they trailed Means and the Orioles, 5-0, before rallying for a 9-7 victory.
“We have not played well the past couple of weeks,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Our pitching is really beat up right now. We have to have starters go longer.”
Hyde was asked if bullpen help might be arriving before Friday’s game with the Nationals and said he hadn’t talked with the front office at that point.
The Orioles (17-26) were outhit by Tampa Bay, 18-2, on Thursday. In the series, Tampa Bay scored 32 runs, on 43 hits, including 11 home runs.
“They had seven lefties in the lineup,” Hyde said. “Credit to them, all series, they didn’t swing at pitches outside the strike zone.”
Rich Hill, a 41-year-old left-hander, allowed just two hits in six innings, one of which was a Trey Mancini home run. The Orioles didn’t have any hits against the Rays’ bullpen in three innings. The two hits is a season low.
In the three-game series, the Orioles had just seven hits in 11 2/3 innings against Tampa Bay relievers.
“We just have to get a lot better from an approach standpoint offensively,” Hyde said. “We go in and out with that and we have to be more consistent with that.”
Not counting Adam Plutko’s one inning as an opener on Sunday, which was followed by 5 2/3 strong innings from Bruce Zimmermann, Oriole pitchers had three starts of three innings or fewer in the last five games. Jorge López lasted just two innings against New York on Saturday night, Matt Harvey was lifted after 1 2/3 innings on Tuesday, and Dean Kremer lasted only three.
“We have to get some length out of our starters,” Hyde said. “We’re running on fumes right now—May 20th.”
The Orioles finished the series with position player Stevie Wilkerson on the mound in the ninth. He retired the first two Rays on some 46-mph curveballs before Joey Wendle, who had four hits, hit his second home run of the game.
Hyde used closer César Valdez, who hadn’t pitched since Sunday, for the eighth inning, something he didn’t want to do. He also didn’t want to use Travis Lakins, who ended up throwing 39 pitches and allowing three runs in an ugly seventh.
“Everything piles up,” Hyde said. “Don’t want to use Valdez in that situation, but I had no other arms to throw.”
Kremer threw 63 pitches in three innings. His worst inning was the second when he allowed four runs. Wendle led off with his fourth home run of the season. Kevin Kiermaier singled and, with one out, Brett Phillips walked. Randy Arozarena followed with his third home run in two games, his seventh of the season.
After Kremer left the bases loaded in the third, Hyde decided that Keegan Akin would start the fourth. Kremer (0-4) allowed four runs on five hits in three innings and his four walks equaled a career high.
“They’re a pretty hot team, as you can see,” Kremer said. “They’re swinging the bats pretty well. When you leave too many balls center cut, you pay for it. I also wasn’t able to land enough breaking balls or changeups, and that’s how it went.”
Kremer doesn’t know why the Orioles are so bad at home.
“It’s not fun, whether it’s home or on road,” he said. “Just getting loss after loss is not an enjoyable way to spend the season.”
Mancini’s home run in the fourth was his 10th. It was the Orioles’ first hit of the game.
Akin allowed two runs in the sixth when the first three Rays (26-19) reached. Ji-Man Choi, who walked in his first three at-bats, singled to score Arozarena, and Brandon Lowe’s sacrifice fly to left increased the lead to 6-1.
Arozarena, the breakout star of last year’s postseason, had seven hits in the last two games, and drove in four with his four hits.
McKenna optioned: The Orioles optioned outfielder Ryan McKenna to Triple-A Norfolk. Anthony Santander is expected to be activated before Friday night’s game with the Nationals, who will start Stephen Strasburg.
Follow Rich Dubroff on Twitter @RichDubroffMLB
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