PITTSBURGH -- The Orioles have been known for their superb defense in recent years, but that may no longer be the case.
In 2013, the Orioles led the major leagues in defense, committing a record-low 54 errors (one every three games). This season, the Orioles have dropped precipitously. They've made 94 errors in 157 games and are in the middle of the pack in defense.
"I think we dropped our guard a little bit defensively, I do," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We lowered our standards in a couple of areas."
Tight defense doesn't always guarantee a successful season. The Miami Marlins and Cincinnati Reds, who are a combined 32 games under .500, have the two top defenses in the majors, while the Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox, both playoff bound, are near the bottom.
The Orioles finished 20th in defense in 2012, the year they broke a 14-season losing streak. That year, Showalter had Wilson Betemit (19 errors in 92 games) playing third base until the Orioles called up Manny Machado from Double-A Bowie and converted him from shortstop to third base.
"I think we've taken a step back defensively, really the last year or two in some places," Showalter said. "I think we need to get that back in order, especially with a pitching staff that doesn't strike out that many people."
From 2011-2014, the Orioles had multiple Gold Glove winners, including three each year from 2012-2014. Shortstop J.J. Hardy and center fielder Adam Jones won Gold Gloves all three years. Machado (2013), right fielder Nick Markakis (2014) and catcher Matt Wieters (2012) each won once.
Machado was the only Oriole to win a Gold Glove in 2015, and last year, no Oriole won a Gold Glove for the first time since 2010. It seems unlikely the Orioles will have any Gold Glove winners this season.
Second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who was named the team's Most Valuable Player, has had an excellent season at the plate, but he has committed a career-high 15 errors. Machado has 14, and Tim Beckham has made nine in 48 games at shortstop. First baseman Chris Davis has eight.
"It's not going to change overnight," Showalter said. "It's something we were really good at. It kept us from playing a home game in the playoffs last year."
Outfield defense hasn't been great, either. While Trey Mancini has had a strong offensive season, he's in his first year in left field and has made three errors there and three at first base. Jones, whose sore legs may prevent him from playing much, if at all, in the final five games, has made five errors.
The Orioles' pitching staff ranks 23rd in strikeouts, and even some of their most effective relievers, such as left-hander Richard Bleier and right-hander Miguel Castro pitch to contact and strike out few.
"I understand that we have more balls put in play than other teams do, opportunities to make miscues," Showalter said.