Orioles manager Dave Trembley spent some time debating Adam Eaton's rotation candidacy on Thursday, concluding that he'd have to see more before he made a decision. Trembley professed hope but left room for the alternative, and Eaton gave fuel to his doubters by allowing seven earned runs in a 7-4 loss to the Yankees.
For Eaton, it was more of the same. And for Trembley, it was the worst-case scenario coming to life. That much seemed clear hours earlier, when the manager was asked about Eaton's status.
"I understand what I'm being asked -- I know what you want me to say," said Trembley, refusing to dance around some pointed questions. "But I'd rather just let him pitch tonight and see what happens. Everything will become clear. I'll be prepared to answer the question if he doesn't pitch well tonight."
The veteran didn't pitch well, and Trembley was indeed ready to answer the obvious question. Eaton, who signed with the Orioles during Spring Training, has allowed seven earned runs in back-to-back starts. The right-hander has given up five earned runs or more in half of his starts, launching speculation about his rotation slot.
"I'm not in a position to answer that question right now," said Trembley. "He didn't pitch good right out of the gate. We had a big deficit to try and make up. It was too much for us to overcome."
Eaton, who was released by the Phillies in Spring Training, said he won't spend much time worrying about his fate. Instead, he'll channel all of his mental energy into preparing for his next tentative start.
"I'm going to go out there and work the way I normally do, try to get better," Eaton said. "If that day comes, I'm going to pitch. And if that day doesn't come, I'm going to see what's going on."
The Yankees (24-17) started their assault early on Thursday by getting doubles from their first three hitters. Two of those drove in runs, and Melky Cabrera followed with a two-run double later in the inning. Robinson Cano added a two-run home run in the second, and Hideki Matsui launched a solo shot in the fifth.
Eaton (2-5) wound up on the hook for seven earned runs in a start that looked eerily similar to his previous outing, in Kansas City. In the aftermath, Eaton admitted that Thursday was likely his toughest start of the season. He went on to say that he remains confident in his stuff, even if his statistics don't lend him support.
"Obviously, numbers don't lie, but I feel like I've got better stuff than an 8.00 ERA," Eaton said. "The other day, I talked to some guys out in the outfield on the opposing team and they said, 'You're throwing the ball good. What's going on?' And I was like, 'I'd rather be lucky than good sometimes.' One thing you can count on is I'm going to keep trying and keep working to get the numbers turned around and start getting some wins for this team."
The Orioles, meanwhile, couldn't get anything going until late in the game despite being granted some early luck. New York's starter, Joba Chamberlain, left after just two outs due to a bruised right knee. Still, Baltimore (16-25) didn't score until the fifth inning and was never able to perch closer than a three-run deficit.
Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis both homered for the Orioles, and Baltimore will leave New York without having led at the end of any inning during the three-game series. The Orioles got swept for the fourth time this season and have lost four straight games, but nobody's pushing the panic button just yet.
"It's tough," said Markakis, who snapped a three-game hitless streak. "You can only do so much as a hitter, and the rest is out of your hands. I thought we did a good job -- not necessarily me -- but we hit the ball well as a team this series. Twelve hits today, 10 hits yesterday. ... Like I said, there's only so much you can do."
"If I didn't see effort, and I didn't see guys that were doing their very best and if I didn't see guys that were competing, it would be a whole lot more difficult for me to accept," added Trembley of his outlook. "But that's not what this group is about. I think they came in here with a lot of things riding on these games. We wanted to win. When you're playing in New York, everybody's watching. But you're going to have to pitch."
The Orioles gambled at one point in the game, using Ty Wigginton as a pinch-hitter for Robert Andino and then leaving him in the game at shortstop. Wigginton had never played that position before, but he used his pinch-hit at-bat to deliver a two-run double, then played flawless defense for the rest of the game.
"I'm trying to win the game right there," Trembley said. "I think the way you're going to win the game in this particular situation, you're going to outscore them. You're not going to beat them with pitching. You're not going to beat them with flashy defensive plays. The object there is to score more runs and get in their bullpen one more time because you know what you're facing at the end. If you wait until the end to do it, it's too late."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.