History was made at Camden Yards on Tuesday night, but the story for the Orioles wasn’t Josh Hamilton becoming the 16th player in major league history to hit four home runs in a single game.
Entering Monday with the best earned run average in the American League and coming off a nine-game stretch in which they allowed a total of 23 runs against Oakland, New York, and Boston, the Orioles have surrendered 24 runs over the last two nights against the powerful Texas Rangers to knock them down a couple pegs in an otherwise impressive start to the 2012 season.
Like Brian Matusz on Monday, Jake Arrieta had no answers for the Texas lineup as an Orioles starter turned in a poor outing for the third straight game while a patchwork bullpen that included three call-ups over the last two days hasn’t been any better.
Needless to say, manager Buck Showalter wasn’t in the mood to discuss the heroics of Hamilton, whose 18 total bases on Tuesday set an American League record and were one shy of former Dodger Shawn Green’s major-league record 19 set on May 23, 2002.
“We didn’t score many runs, either,” Showalter said. “I think you’ve got to tip your hat to their pitching staff, too. We’ve obviously given up a lot of runs in a couple nights to make it tough. Obviously, Hamilton had a big night.”
The offense, which seemed to have come alive in the last five games of the last road trip, has suddenly gone silent over the last two nights against Texas starters Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz, scoring just six runs in two games.
The Orioles have lost consecutive games for the first time since April 20 and 21 in Anaheim, but one of the most impressive aspects of their 19-11 start has been their ability to dust themselves off after the handful of losses suffered over the first five weeks of the season. Even so, you have to wonder how two lopsided losses to the Rangers — who look like the class of the American League early on — will impact the club’s psyche following a successful 5-1 road trip against the Yankees and the Red Sox.
After winning a remarkable 17-inning marathon in Boston on Sunday, the Orioles have appeared to lack energy over the last two nights, though it’s easy to say that when facing a team many regard as the best in baseball. In addition to the physical demands of the aforementioned game against the Red Sox, you wonder if the inexperienced Orioles suffered a mental hangover in coming home after such a successful road trip against their two biggest tormentors of the last 14 years.
One of the biggest signs of a winning team is its ability to rebound quickly from tough losses and prevent negative spurts from transforming into extended losing streaks. Realistically speaking, two straight losses are nothing at all over which to be concerned, but mainstays of the roster over the last few years have a laundry list of lengthy swoons they’ll need to keep from their minds while trying to regroup for the final two games of the series against the Rangers.
As uplifting as their 19-11 start has been, dropping 10 of their next 11 would all but erase the positive vibes circulating through the Baltimore clubhouse. They can try to fight it all they want, but losing still flows through the veins of many key players and can’t be eliminated completely in a 30-game period. Unlike winning clubs of recent seasons, the Orioles don’t have positive experiences of rebounding from adversity from which to draw, forcing you to take pregnant pause at the first sign of trouble.
They simply aren’t familiar with how winning teams handle a bump or two in the road.
Despite being outscored 24-6 over the last two nights, the Orioles will have the opportunity to put that behind them immediately on Wednesday and Thursday as they try to snap a seven-game losing streak to the two-time American League champions that dates back to last season.
Unlike any other sport, baseball gives you the opportunity to erase the pain immediately.
But it’s also unforgiving in how consecutive losses can quickly turn into a nightmarish stretch of time if you’re not careful.
The Orioles know that all too well in recent years and will try to get back on track with their pitching, the phase of the game that’s carried them to their best start since 2005.
It needs to regroup in a hurry.