Baltimore moved within hailing distance of the worst road trip in franchise history Wednesday night with a grinding 5-3 loss to Tampa Bay. The Orioles have now lost 13 consecutive games and are 0-for-9 on their current road trip, and a defeat in Thursday's series finale would break a mark that has stood for five decades.
Baltimore's worst road trips were 0-7 jaunts in 1954 and '82, and the team's worst winning percentage on a road trip of 10 games or more was .083 (1-11) in '88. And if you focus on the bigger picture, the Orioles' current skid is the longest in the Majors since Pittsburgh lost 13 in a row in 2006.
"I think the guys, like everybody else, are pretty sick and tired of it," said manager Dave Trembley.
"We're human. We want to succeed," added veteran Luke Scott. "It doesn't matter what aspect of life you're in. You're going to go through adversity and you're going to go through difficult times, some more than others. You can either allow it to break you down or you can allow it to build character. What you do in those moments [defines you]. If you push through and keep a positive attitude, maintain your positive work ethic, that's all you can do."
The Orioles have done that by all accounts, but they haven't been able to turn their luck around. They came into the current series with a 7-7 record against Tampa Bay this season but have dropped three in a row. Baltimore (60-98) is now a league-worst 24-56 on the road and holds the second-worst record in the Major Leagues.
Rookie David Hernandez bore the burden of turning things around on Wednesday, but he wasn't able to handle it. Hernandez (4-10) left in the fifth inning and allowed five earned runs in the loss. The right-hander has a 2-8 record since the All-Star break and has been removed before completing five innings in six of his past 12 starts.
"It's tough to go out like this," said Hernandez. "I felt like I was just fighting my mechanics through the first four innings. I just never really got comfortable out there. I made a couple of mistakes and paid for it."
Tampa Bay (82-76) broke through for its first run in the second inning on Wednesday and took firm control of the game in the third on a three-run homer by Ben Zobrist. Hernandez escaped the fourth inning unscathed but gave up a solo home run to Carl Crawford in the fifth before Trembley came out to get him.
"He's going to have to improve his secondary pitches. He's going to have to show the ability to throw his secondary pitches over for strikes," said Trembley. "He's got to get better with throwing his breaking pitch and his changeup over, and he's got to be able to locate his fastball better. I've said this repeatedly: you can't pitch up and in the middle of the plate with your fastball and expect that more times than not you're going to get away with it."
Baltimore spent most of the game playing from behind, thanks to a sterling performance from opposing starter James Shields. The right-hander shut the Orioles out for seven innings before allowing a run in the eighth, and pinch-hitter Ty Wigginton provided the game's final margin by blasting a two-run homer later in the rally.
The Orioles managed to get a two-out single from Matt Wieters in the ninth inning, but Russ Springer struck out Melvin Mora for his first save of the season. Tampa Bay used two different pitchers in the final inning and had former Oriole Lance Cormier warming up just in case the road team mounted a closing rally.
"For us to battle back like we did says something about the guys," said Trembley, echoing a refrain he has sung several times this season. "We got the tying run up to the plate and it didn't happen."
Baltimore's latest loss clinched a tie with the 2001 edition of the Orioles for the team's most losses in the past 20 years. If the O's don't win three of their final four games, they'll lose 100 for the first time since 1988. That number may seem arbitrary to some, but it means a great deal to the players in the clubhouse.
"Oh yeah, it's kind of frustrating. You feel it," said Mora, the longest-tenured Oriole. "You don't want the feeling of losing 100 games. For me, it's frustrating. I don't know how everybody else feels. When you've been part of an organization for a long time, it's kind of like part of my family. If anybody else doesn't feel it, I feel like it."
The Orioles also lost Scott toward the end of the game, adding to a dire shortage of manpower in the outfield. Scott left the game in the eighth inning with a strained muscle in his left foot, and Wigginton later replaced him in left field. Scott said he expects to play again, but Trembley will be extra careful with him.
"I think he felt some discomfort earlier in the game and then I think he felt more discomfort when he had to go to left-center field to make that catch," said Trembley, describing Scott's on-field symptoms. "You can see when he got that hit, he was limping pretty good out of the box, so I got him out."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.