The reports about the revitalized Baltimore Orioles offense might have been a tad premature.
After combining for 21 runs during back-to-back games in Toronto April 23 and 24, the Birds apparently left their bats on the other side of the Canadian border. Returning home to Baltimore, the O's tallied a meager six runs during their three-game weekend series against the Royals April 25-27, dropping two out of three.
The loss of Chris Davis, who went on the disabled list April 27 with an oblique strain, didn't do the Orioles' lineup any favors. Few, if any, Orioles hitters were able to step up during his absence. The Birds batted below the Mendoza line as a team, hitting .198 (20-for-101) during the series with three extra-base hits. They were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position. The O's had more strikeouts (26) than they had hits plus walks (25). Royals rookie starter Yordano Ventura went eight scoreless innings April 25 during a 5-0 shutout, and Jeremy Guthrie and James Shields followed with quality starts as well.
One particular O's hitter who struggled was center fielder Adam Jones, who went 1-for-12 during the three games. Jones has yet to find a groove in 2014, with a season batting line of .265/.291/.367/.658 and one home run. With Davis sidelined for at least two weeks, Jones will carry more of the burden for the Orioles' offense. If he doesn't soon find a way to hit the way he's capable of, the Birds' offensive struggles will likely continue. Jones also dropped a fly ball leading off the game April 27 for a three-base error, giving the Royals a quick run en route to a 9-3 rout.
Two exceptions stood out among the struggling O's hitters. Nick Markakis, who started at first base April 26 and 27 in place of Davis, was 5-for-11, collecting a hit during each game. That included his walk-off RBI single with the bases loaded in the 10th inning April 26, giving the Birds a 3-2 victory. Markakis hasn't hit for power this year -- all five of his hits during the series were singles -- but he's shown an ability to get on base.
Newcomer Jemile Weeks, too, displayed his acumen in getting on base. Fresh up from Triple-A Norfolk, Weeks served as the Orioles' leadoff hitter April 26 and 27 and showed something many O's hitters struggle with -- patience at the plate. In his first at-bat as an Oriole April 26, Weeks worked Guthrie for a nine-pitch at bat after falling behind in the count 0-2, lining a leadoff single. He later tripled as well, working the count each time up. Weeks saw 26 pitches April 26 and 20 pitches April 27, leading the team both times.
Orioles starting pitchers pitched well enough to win during the series, though none of them bagged a victory. Ubaldo Jimenez (six innings April 25) and Wei-Yin Chen (seven innings April 26) each pitched his longest outing of the season, and Miguel Gonzalez worked six innings April 27, tying his season high. The trio combined for a 4.26 ERA during the series, which kept the Orioles close. The offense, though, wasn't able to capitalize.
After playing most of their April schedule against American League East opponents, the Orioles had a chance to start beating up on some other divisions, but were unable to do so against the Royals. The Birds will get an off day to regroup, and then will square off against a National League opponent for the first time in 2014, hosting the Pirates for a two-game series starting April 29.