The Orioles have faced more opposition this season than any year in recent memory.
They’ve battled the COVID-19 pandemic, which shortened the regular season to just 60 games in a little over 60 days. They rallied a handful of players who had been let go by other organizations to start in Baltimore with better results than anyone expected. But now, they’re faced with another daunting task they’re slowly losing control over.
Time and math.
In getting swept by the Yankees in a doubleheader, 6-0 and 10-1, the Orioles fell to 3.5 games behind the Yankees — and a playoff spot — with 16 games to play in the regular season. If they want to make the final few weeks of the season competitive, they’re running out of time, and games, to do so.
“Everyone in that locker room knows the significance of this series,” outfielder DJ Stewart said. “It’s a great opportunity for us, and we just didn’t come out and execute the day. But tomorrow is another day.”
After back-to-back losses in games that weren’t close, the Orioles suddenly find themselves on the ropes after the beginning of the series held so much excitement. The Orioles, at 20-24, now seemingly need two wins on Saturday and Sunday to keep their fading playoff hopes realistically alive.
Were the Orioles likely contenders for a playoff run? Clearly not. But they made things fun over the last few weeks, and they no longer viewed losing competitively as an option any longer.
Friday, they lost by a combined 16-1 score.
The Orioles managed just two hits in the first game of the doubleheader and fell behind due to home runs in the first inning by DJ LeMahieu and Brett Gardner. The score was never close after that.
Alex Cobb, coming off the Injured List, threw four innings and allowed seven hits and five earned runs. For the Yankees, Gerrit Cole threw all seven innings and allowed just two hits and one walk.
In game two, the Orioles allowed 10 runs and managed just four hits. Luke Voit hit two three-run home runs, outscoring the entire Orioles team across two games with two swings of the bat.
Baltimore’s starter, Keegan Akin, didn’t make it out of the first inning.
“Keegan’s pitch count was up there, just couldn’t let him go past 40 pitches in an inning,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Unfortunately his outing was cut extremely short. I just think that they were on his fastball, a lot of foul balls, I think there were some balls in the middle of the plate that he could’ve located a little bit better. It was a pitch count issue because of a lot of factors.”
With a quick turnaround for an afternoon first pitch on Saturday, the Orioles will pivot into near must-win territory for the final two games of the series as the season heads to its final weeks.
They had a chance to have some fun with at least a split against the Yankees on Friday. Now, whatever small chance the team had of a playoff berth is fading fast.