CLEVELAND (AP) –The missed chances are piling up. The losses are, too.
The Baltimore Orioles are not doing the little things it takes to win, and unless that changes quickly, their impressive start will be for naught.
The Orioles lost their sixth straight game on Saturday, 8-3 to the Cleveland Indians, and fell under .500 for the first time this season. After opening 4-0, Baltimore has lost seven of nine and its offensive struggles are getting worse.
Their big hitters aren’t coming up big, and the Orioles went 2 for 11 with runners in scoring position. Twice they had chances to cut into Cleveland’s lead but failed to come up with a clutch hit.
“We had opportunities we didn’t take advantage of,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I’ll dwell on that a little bit. It’s been a challenge for us. We’ll get better at that.”
Other than solo homers by Jake Fox and Luke Scott, the Orioles did little against Josh Tomlin (3-0), who gave up six hits in six innings. Baltimore’s 2-3-4 hitters, Nick Markakis, Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero, went a combined 2 for 14 with four strikeouts.
Shin-Soo Choo homered off Jeremy Guthrie (1-2) and Orlando Cabrera had four RBIs for the Indians, who are 10-4 and off to their best start in nine years. Travis Hafner and Travis Buck had three hits apiece.
The Orioles’ slide is the club’s longest since Showalter took over as manager on Aug. 3. Baltimore has scored just 15 runs during the skid.
Still, Showalter is trying to stay upbeat. The last thing he wants is for his team to lose whatever confidence it may have left.
“It’s not the gloom and doom everybody makes it out to be,” Showalter said.
Tomlin won the only open spot in Cleveland’s rotation during spring training, and the right-hander has shown no signs he’ll give it up. He coasted through the first few innings, allowing only the two homers before working in and out of a tricky situation in the fifth.
He gave up a leadoff homer to Scott that made it 6-2 and then made an error on Adam Jones’ bunt. The Orioles eventually loaded the bases with one out, but Tomlin got Brian Roberts to pop out and retired Markakis on a groundout.
The Orioles made it 6-3 in the seventh on Roberts’ RBI single, but failed to push more than one run across despite having runners at first and third with none out. Indians reliever Vinnie Pestano got Markakis to hit into a double play and struck out Lee to preserve Cleveland’s three-run lead.
Cabrera made it swell to five in the seventh with his second homer.
Fox homered in the third, but as he watched the ball sail over the left-field wall, he tripped over first base and had to go back and touch the bag before trotting around the bases.
Fox said if the Orioles are going to lose some games, now’s the time to do it.
“You might as well get it out of the way early,” Fox said. “In this period of time every year, you go through a little bit of a tough time. We keep reminding ourselves that we’ve got 162 games and we’re going to keep playing hard and sooner or later things will fall into place.”
As has been the case during their fast start, the Indians scored early. They took a 2-0 lead in the second off Guthrie on Cabrera’s groundout and Matt LaPorta’s RBI double. Guthrie, though, minimized the damage by striking out Jake Hannahan and Michael Brantley with runners at second and third.
Guthrie couldn’t do much to stop the Indians in the third.
Cleveland scored four runs off the right-hander, who had gone 2-0 in four previous starts against his former team.
“Outs was the biggest thing I was missing, especially in the third inning,” said Guthrie, who recently had a bout with pneumonia. “Not getting the third out wasn’t working out too well for me. I was always one pitch away, but I never quite got it.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)