Wednesday's result was a disappointing, 6-3 series-finale loss to San Francisco -- in front of a spirited crowd at AT&T Park -- in a game much closer than the score would suggest.
"I think we had a chance to beat them," said Orioles second baseman Julio Lugo, who went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and a run scored. "We had a lot of chances with men in scoring position and less than two outs. That's been one of our weaknesses. We're not putting the ball in play at the right time."
The loss dropped the Orioles to 30 games below .500, at 18-48, and was their 18th road defeat in the team's last 20 games. They are still searching for their first road series win and are now 3-9 with interim manager Juan Samuel at the helm.
"We have not been driving in big runs and I think guys in those situations [with runners on], we are trying so hard instead of being relaxed and go for a pitch in the area," said Samuel, who watched Lincecum strike out three straight batters to strand a pair of runners in the fourth.
"We are taking too many fastballs down the middle. Sometimes you might have to expand the zone there, but we have to make contact in that situation."
The O's best late chance to score came in the eighth inning. Down a pair of runs, Corey Patterson drew a one-out walk, and Miguel Tejada put runners on the corners with a single up the middle off Giants closer Brian Wilson. Wilson elevated his fastball to 98 mph against Nick Markakis, following a pair of back-door sliders, to send the O's best hitter down swinging. Wilson then proceeded to get Luke Scott on a groundout to leave the Orioles' middle of the order looking lifeless.
"It's tough, especially with the situation that we're in," Markakis said. "When you don't execute those plays in crucial times, it's magnified times 10."
The Orioles entered the rubber match hitting a Major League-worst .213 with runners in scoring position and went 3-for-14 in those scenarios Wednesday. The next closest team is Pittsburgh, which entered Wednesday with a .232 RISP average. In the three-game set, Baltimore went a total of 5-for-33 (.152) with runners in scoring position and left 26 men on base.
"The team was pretty aggressive," Lincecum said of the free-swinging O's. "Markakis, Luke Scott, Lugo, those guys are getting pretty good swings up there. So, I just tried to stay aggressive and not let it eat me up out there, and make a big pitch when I needed to."
Lincecum was effectively wild most of the afternoon, hitting double-digit strikeouts for the fourth time this season and pitching his way out of several jams. The Orioles put a pair of runners on in two of the first three innings, but couldn't break through for a run until three straight singles in the fourth. Lincecum promptly struck out the next three batters, outlasting what looked to be an abbreviated outing with the Giants bullpen in action as early as the fifth.
"That's why he's a Cy Young winner," said Adam Jones, who went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts. "[Lincecum] does walk and give up hits, he does do that. But one thing he [also] does do is he leads the league in strikeouts; he gets big strikeouts all the time."
Lincecum lasted six frames, becoming the 51st opposing starter in 66 games to go at least six innings against Baltimore. Mound counterpart Jeremy Guthrie's six innings were nearly as effective, but a pair of two-strike sliders in his final frame proved to be the difference.
"Ultimately it came down to the sixth inning, [I] couldn't put down a zero," said Guthrie, who was tagged with solo homers by former Oriole Aubrey Huff and Juan Uribe. "You look at their bullpen, I think [Lincecum] probably wasn't going to come out for the seventh.
"If we could keep it tied there, 2-2, I think we go on and win this game. I don't think there's anywhere to look any further than this mound and what I wasn't able to accomplish in the sixth."
But the Orioles' failure to score runs far outweighed Guthrie's mistakes. The O's threatened again in the seventh when Lugo drove in his second run of the afternoon on a single off reliever Santiago Casilla. But Cesar Izturis -- who singled twice previously -- struck out swinging to strand a pair of runners.
In a season full of uninspiring stats, the Orioles' underachieving offense has been the most prevalent part of their lopsided season.
"I've been on that side," Huff said. "It's not fun, believe me. [I had] nine straight years of that [losing]. It kind of wears on you. You come here every day and I finally feel like I'm in the big leagues. It's been a great time."