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Orioles universally frustrated by skid

Orioles universally frustrated by skid

ST. PETERSBURG -- There are no words, no magical mantra to repeat and make the facts go away. The Orioles found themselves facing that reality on Tuesday night, when they dropped a 3-1 game to the Rays and set the longest losing streak (12 games) of any Major League team this season.

The Orioles have lost blowouts and pitchers' duels over that stretch, and they saw a four-game skid at home followed by eight consecutive losses on the road. Baltimore has scored three runs or fewer in eight of its past 12 losses, and it's gotten to the point that the team's gregarious manager is at a major loss for words.

"I can't give you an answer. I've run out of things to say," manager Dave Trembley said. "I think I've been cordial, direct, up front, dealt with it as best as we possibly can. But I really have no explanation, no excuse. Unless you're on the other side, it's very difficult for me to explain to you what it's been like.

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"Coming here and talking to you guys every night and doing the TV every night and meeting with people beforehand and being a spokesman for the club -- making sure the guys got a little bounce in the step -- it's been a test that we've all endured far too long. And I'm looking forward to winning tomorrow night."

He's been looking forward to that for two weeks, and that tomorrow has yet to come. The Orioles' losing streak started on Sept. 17, when Rays rookie Wade Davis tossed a shutout to beat them. Two starts later, Davis (2-1) helped prolong Baltimore's misery with another quality start.

The Orioles (60-97) had two good scoring chances in the early innings on Tuesday -- once in the first inning and once in the second -- but wound up stranding three runners on base. Davis allowed a run in the third inning, but he was able to regroup and retire the final 11 batters he faced en route to the victory.

"The story of the game is back-to-back outings against us by Davis," said Trembley. "He had command of four pitches, very good command of his fastball, uses both sides of the plate, elevates, good breaking pitch."

And if Davis wasn't good enough, the Orioles helped make him better with some adventurous baserunning. Designated hitter Ty Wigginton was thrown out at the plate in the first inning, and he later was thrown out at third while trying to advance on a ball in the dirt. And in the aftermath, both plays seemed to loom large.

"I don't want to speak for Wigginton," said Trembley. "[Third-base coach Juan Samuel] is not responsible for the baserunning and I'm not responsible for the baserunning there. I'm not trying to skirt the issue. We asked him the explanation, and he said he saw the ball go into the dirt and he thought he had a shot at going to third. He was surprised when he saw that [Rays catcher Gregg] Zaun short-hopped it. He thought with the ball going in the dirt, it was going to bounce away from Zaun. What he did is he reacted to something that he thought, not what he saw."

"I just knew it was going to be a curveball," added Wigginton. "So I thought if I got a real good secondary [lead] and that ball got in the dirt, I would take advantage of it. Zaunie came up and caught it. That's a curveball in the dirt. It's usually going to kick up high and get away; instead Zaunie scooped it and it looks like a bad play."

Tampa Bay, by contrast, took advantage of its first good scoring chance. The Rays (81-76) used a one-out walk to push their first runner on base in the first inning, and Ben Zobrist doubled to break up the shutout. Willy Aybar followed with a run-scoring single, sinking Jeremy Guthrie and the Orioles to an early deficit.

Guthrie (10-17) managed to settle down and pitch through the seventh inning, and he allowed just one more run on a sacrifice fly. The right-hander said he was pleased with his outing, if also upset at the result.

"I thought [catcher] Matt [Wieters] and I worked real well together," said Guthrie. "I think it was one of the best games we've had as far as being on the same page, having a good game plan and being able to execute it. It's unfortunate. I look at the first inning, and the only thing I can really point out is that maybe I was trying too hard. It's not a mental issue, but they got a couple hits, big hits, two-out hits. I was trying to make too fine a pitch, trying to do too many things, and wound up walking [Carl] Crawford. Overall, my stuff tonight was as good as it's been all year."

Baltimore hadn't lost 12 consecutive games since 2004, and the skid is tied for the third-longest in franchise history. The Orioles haven't lost more than 12 in a row since 1988, when they dropped 21 in a row.

Leadoff hitter Brian Roberts, the second-longest tenured player on the team, set a Major League record by stroking his 56th double of the season early in the game. Roberts, who came around to score, passed Lance Berkman's 2001 campaign for the most doubles in a season by a switch-hitter.

Roberts, though humbled by his record, admitted that the current stretch has been tough to take.

"After eight years, it's hard to remember all the stretches," he said. "But this certainly is not a good one. The unfortunate part of it is we've had some good things to look at this year, and we're in something that's not fun to look at. That's the bad part of this. I think it's detracted from some of the positives that we've had this season."

"I always stick by what we say -- to take it one game at a time," added Guthrie. "It's cliché to say it, but if you do it any other way, you'll drive yourself crazy and you won't succeed. There's really only one way to approach anything in life, and that's one step at a time. In baseball, it's one game at a time and one pitch at a time.

"Unfortunately, we're not doing enough of those to get the wins, and it's frustrating because we're professional baseball players. We have a lot of self pride, and we want to do it for the coaches who are working their tails off and trying to do the best they can to put us in position to win. It's not happening. But if you look around here, I think you've got 30-plus guys that are trying their very best and haven't cashed it in, regardless of the results."

Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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