And for the second successive outing, a quality start by Jeremy Guthrie was lost at sea in front of a record-low 9,129 fans at Camden Yards on hand for Baltimore's 5-1 loss to Tampa Bay.
A day removed from going 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position, Baltimore's bats came up completely dry, going 0-for-3 and dropping their batting average with runners in scoring position to .157 (9-for-57). Last year, the O's posted a .284 average with RISP, which was the second-best mark in the AL.
"It's not fun. It [stinks]" said Nick Markakis, who went 0-for-3 to drop his season average to .143.
"Overall, our pitching is doing a great job. Our offense needs to pick it up. I know for myself in the three hole, I need to be more aggressive, get things going. We just all need to relax. It's a long season. I know it's not the way we wanted to start, but we have to keep battling."
Dealt a blow earlier in the afternoon with the news that leadoff hitter Brian Roberts was headed to the disabled list, the Orioles recorded a run on six hits in Monday's loss, allowing Rays starter Matt Garza to improve to 5-0 in six career starts at Camden Yards.
"I probably should do something [different with the lineup]," manager Dave Trembley said. "You lose your leadoff hitter -- that just isn't the greatest news in the world when that happens. Then you've got probably eight other guys trying to make up for his loss. Guys are human."
With the exception of Rays left fielder Carl Crawford, perhaps. The speedy All-Star robbed Garrett Atkins of a liner in the gap in a potential run-producing situation in the seventh inning. With one out and Luke Scott -- who walked -- on first base, Crawford made a diving outstretched catch on the run for the inning's second out.
"Atkins is going to get on [ESPN's] SportsCenter tonight, but for the wrong reasons," said Trembley, who dubbed the play a game-changer, "because Crawford makes a great catch on a ball that looks like it is up the gap and we are going to score a couple there.
"You would think sooner or later we would get one of those to fall in."
But those breaks were nowhere to be found in Monday's game. Following Crawford's catch, pinch-hitter Ty WIgginton kept the O's hopes alive with a bloop single -- the first hit off Garza since Scott's second-inning single. But it went for naught when Wigginton was caught trying to advance on Garza's second pitch to Nolan Reimold, which squirted past catcher Dioner Navarro. Navarro recovered and threw the ball to Reid Brignac to start an unusual 2-4-3-6 inning-ending putout.
"It doesn't look good when you lose," Trembley said of the team's baserunning gaffes, which also included Adam Jones' pickoff for the game's first out. "It certainly doesn't look good."
|"I probably should do something [different with the lineup]. You lose your leadoff hitter -- that just isn't the greatest news in the world when that happens. Then you've got probably eight other guys trying to make up for his loss. Guys are human."|
|-- Orioles manager Dave Trembley|
But Guthrie did look good. The right-hander hunkered down after allowing a solo homer in the third inning, retiring the next eight batters before running into a snag with one out in the sixth. Guthrie yielded a one-out double to Crawford, and Ben Zobrist's RBI triple just eluded the glove of a diving Jones in shallow center field. Evan Longoria's sacrifice fly produced another Rays run, and an infield single on a soft grounder to shortstop Cesar Izturis warranted a short mound meeting for Guthrie.
Working off a fastball consistently clocked in the mid-90s, Guthrie sent B.J. Upton down on strikes to minimize the damage and retired the Rays' bottom three batters in the seventh. It was an emphatic finishing statement on a strong outing from Guthrie, who allowed three earned runs on eight hits scattered over seven innings.
"Overall, I feel much more confident throwing fastballs than I ever did at any point last year," Guthrie said, "because of a little bit more movement."
Trembley praised Guthrie's improved delivery, citing a lower arm angle as key to his early-season success.
"A lot of times last year he was up too high, and obviously the pitches were up and he really didn't have a lot on it," Trembley said. "But he is back to where he was in 2008. He's got movement, his slider is a lot sharper."
But as good as Guthrie was Garza was better ---again.
With the leadoff spot vacated by Roberts, Pie's performance out of the top spot looked like an early cause for optimism. The outfielder sent Garza's 1-0 pitch over the right-center-field fence for his first career leadoff homer.
Two innings later, Pie threw out Jason Bartlett, who tried to score from second base on Crawford's single. Pie finished 2-for-3 and was the only Orioles hitter to record multiple hits off Garza.
"Garza is a power pitcher and comes out right from the first inning," Trembley said. "He pitches inside, has real good life and he has shown himself to be one of the better pitchers in the league."
Added Guthrie: "I'm off to a great start and that's really what it comes down to. You've got to pitch well enough to keep your team in the game and I've done that for a few innings, but it slipped away a little bit tonight, as well as it did [against the Rays last Wednesday].
"I've been outpitched twice and I deserve to be 0-2, and that's where I am. But I feel like I can compete and be in there in those battles going through. And having started 0-2, last year I was 2-0. So, maybe I finish 17-10 [and] it's a big happy party at the end of the season."
The Orioles -- who at 1-6 are off to their worst start since 2002 -- can only hope for the same.
"Baseball is a game of bunches, it's a game of streaks. Right now, we are going through one of those streaks," Wigginton said. "Sometimes you need the pitcher to pick you up -- they've been outstanding. And other times you need hitters to pick you up, and right now it's just not on the same page."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.