Baltimore's season dipped to a new depth Wednesday, when it fell to its second consecutive sweep and set its longest losing streak of the year. The Orioles took an early lead but wound up with a listless 7-3 defeat to the Blue Jays, a game that marked their seventh consecutive loss and sunk them to 32 games under .500.
The Orioles hadn't been swept in back-to-back three-game series all year before Wednesday, putting the skid in sharper perspective. Jeremy Guthrie, Baltimore's Opening Day starter, has fallen to two losses during that span, and he said Wednesday that he didn't think the team was disappointed or demoralized.
"We're trying to battle to the end and I think guys are doing a great job of that," he said of the stretch run. "I actually didn't know we had lost seven in a row. Ideally, I think as players we try to come in and perform to the best of our ability and take them one at a time. If they stack up in a losing streak such as the one we're in, so be it. Hopefully, by taking a game at a time, we can be on the tail end of a six- or seven-game winning streak, too."
And if the big picture wasn't distressing enough, the small one added its own dash of color. Scott Richmond, who started for Toronto (69-83), hadn't earned a victory in nearly three months. The right-hander had gone 0-5 with an 8.92 ERA in his previous eight starts, but he weathered an early storm to take the win.
Baltimore got to Richmond (7-10) early on Wednesday, courtesy of a two-run home run from Michael Aubrey in the second inning. But after that, the right-hander shut the O's down. Matt Wieters added a solo home run to right field in the top of the fifth, and Toronto's bullpen worked four scoreless innings to seal the win.
"I feel like we needed a couple hits tonight. We had some guys on base. It didn't happen," said Baltimore manager Dave Trembley of the losing effort. "We had limited scoring opportunities. We got Richmond's pitch count way up, worked him, walked four. We needed to do a little bit more in all phases of the game."
Guthrie got a two-run lead in the top of the second, but he let Toronto creep right back in with back-to-back doubles in the bottom half of the inning. The Blue Jays managed to tie the game on two hits and a deep sacrifice fly in the third, and Guthrie (10-16) stranded a runner in scoring position before crumbling in the fourth.
That inning started innocently enough, with a line drive and an error on a grounder to shortstop Cesar Izturis. Guthrie balked the runner to second base, and John McDonald singled him in. Jose Bautista kept things rolling with a triple to the right-center gap, and Aaron Hill made it a 5-2 game with a sacrifice fly to deep right field.
"I just let them get back into the game and get the momentum on their side," said Guthrie. "We had a chance to go out there and really throw up a zero and see what happens, give our offense a chance to put some runs on and catch their breath to add some on. ... We let them get the momentum with some hits and some runs."
The two teams traded home runs -- one by Wieters in the fifth and the other by Travis Snider in the sixth -- before Toronto capped off the scoring with a run in the eighth. The home run by Snider, incidentally, came on virtually the same pitch that had caused the youngster to ground to shortstop earlier in the game.
The Orioles (60-92) played without regulars Brian Roberts and Melvin Mora on Wednesday, as Trembley gave some playing time to seldom-used reserves Robert Andino and Justin Turner. The manager addressed that alignment after the game, and he said that Baltimore has to balance out playing time and still play with intensity.
"We need to put the best lineup we can out there and still be cognizant of the fact [that we have] some younger guys here," he said. "The day off will help tomorrow as far as resting some of the guys that have been playing on a regular basis. But I still think you have an obligation to do whatever you can to put your best guys out there."
Baltimore, with 10 games left, will have to win three more times to avoid the franchise's first 100-loss season since 1988. The Orioles will see Toronto three more times -- the last three days of the season and their only remaining home games -- and Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston can empathize with their plight.
"Before they got their guys hurt over there, they were giving us a tough time," he said. "Before [Adam] Jones went down, they were tough. We weren't playing them too well. We certainly didn't want to finish behind them."
Perhaps the lone bright spot came from Wieters, who homered off the facing of the third deck in right field. Wieters has hit safely in 15 of 19 games during September and is batting .366 (26-for-71) over that span.
"In batting practice today, he hit exclusively from the left side and, boy, he is really starting to get the barrel on the ball," said Trembley. "He is really starting to work on the ball on the inner third of the plate. He had some tremendous at-bats tonight. It's really great to see for him. He is finishing the year really on an upbeat tempo."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.