Perhaps it's impossible for a team that is more than 30 games under .500 and has been playing mostly meaningless contests for months to hit rock bottom in the final days of a 162-game season.
But leave it to the Orioles to find a way.
The Cleveland Indians had only won three games the entire month when the weekend series began. They doubled that total with a series sweep of the hapless Orioles, secured with a 9-0 throttling Sunday in front of an announced 29,930 at Progressive Field.
The result, which became a formality after the Indians scored six runs in the first inning off Chris Tillman in the rookie's final start of the season, leaves the Orioles with a 10-game losing streak and five defeats shy of the third 100-loss season in team history.
"It's embarrassing," Orioles catcher Chad Moeller said. "There's no way around it. We go out there optimistic and come in frustrated.
"The whole point of playing this game at this level is to win. When you're getting kicked across the field like that, it's not a lot of fun."
The Orioles, who are 60-95 with seven games remaining, matched the 10-game slide they experienced around this time last season. They'll start a four-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays today, just one defeat away from hitting the organization's longest losing streak since dropping 12 straight games in August 2004.
As it is, the Orioles are 35 games under .500 for the first time since they finished the 2001 season 63-98.
"When the game turns hard in one direction, it really has a way of snowballing and getting on a line," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "That's what happens. The only thing to look at is, tomorrow starts a winning streak for us. Let's see how many games we can win coming down the final week of the season."
Trembley is trying to remain positive even though he's well aware that this stretch isn't helping his tenuous job status, which was in question before the Orioles started a 10-game road trip by getting swept by the Toronto Blue Jays and now the Indians.
The three-game series here appeared to be a rare winning opportunity for the Orioles as the Indians entered Friday's opener having dropped 11 straight games and 16 of 17. But the Orioles couldn't get a single victory in the series and led for only five innings the entire weekend.
Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, who will announce a decision on Trembley's status over the next seven to 10 days, said even before Sunday's debacle that he had hoped the team would have been much more competitive with Toronto and Cleveland, two teams that also have been playing out the string for quite some time.
"I'm disappointed in this road trip," said MacPhail, who watched the three games from a booth behind home plate. "I know we're beat-up and running out of bullets, but I'm not real pleased with it. Some of it, I can understand. But I don't think Cleveland and Toronto are terribly different than we are."
Indians rookie David Huff became the latest unheralded pitcher to control the Orioles, pitching eight shutout innings. However, he was presented with a 6-0 lead before throwing a pitch in the second inning.
Tillman allowed hits to the first three Indians he faced, with the third, Asdrubal Cabrera, getting a two-run double to start his four-hit day. After getting two outs, Tillman walked rookie Matt LaPorta, allowed an RBI single to Andy Marte and then served up a three-run homer to Kelly Shoppach.
The rookie right-hander allowed a total of six runs on six hits and a walk over two innings, but things could have been even worse had center fielder Jeff Fiorentino not made a running catch with the bases loaded in the second.
"I just didn't think he had a whole lot of finish or life to his pitches," Trembley said. "Marte got the one bloop, but other than that, he didn't miss too many barrels. It just was not a very good outing by Chris. It's unfortunate because he's had a lot of good ones for us and he's a first-year player and it's been a learning experience for him. It's something that happens to the best of the best."
Tillman will not take his final turn of the season because team officials want to be cautious with the 21-year-old, who has pitched 161 2/3 innings in 30 total starts between Baltimore and Triple-A.
So the rookie will be forced into the role of bystander as the Orioles try to figure out a way to win a game in a season that has reached its lowest point.
"The situation that we're in, it's tough," outfielder Nick Markakis said. "It's a game, so just go out there and have fun and do the best you can. That's all you can do."
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