When the Orioles began September with three pulsating wins in their first five games, there was some excitement around the ballclub. On Sept. 5, they were 71-68 and trailed the Los Angeles Angels by a game for the second wild card.
Since then, the Orioles have been in freefall, losing 16 of 20. Not only were they eliminated from playoff consideration last weekend, but their streak of five straight non-losing seasons ended, too.
The Orioles enter the final three games of the season at the Tampa Bay Rays tied with the Toronto Blue Jays for last place in the AL East.
Manager Buck Showalter said once the team was eliminated, he would play younger players more often, and in the past three games, that's been the case.
In two losses at the Pittsburgh Pirates Sept. 26-27, Showalter started an outfield comprised entirely of rookies: Austin Hays, Trey Mancini and Anthony Santander, the team's first all-rookie outfield since September 1973.
Rookie catcher Chance Sisco also has started the past three games, as the team has begun its evaluation of him.
At 7-18 in September, the Orioles have experienced their worst month since July 2011 when they went 7-20. It's their worst September since 2009 when they lost 20 of 26.
The starting pitching has struggled. In September, Orioles starters have lost 15 of 18 decisions and have a 6.46 ERA. The bullpen, strong much of the season, has slumped to a 4.28 ERA.
The offense has been disappointing as well. In 25 games, they've scored 80 runs, an average of a little more than three runs per game.
Designated hitter Mark Trumbo is in a 1-for-22 slump and is batting .186 in September. First baseman Chris Davis has a .177 average in September, his worst month of the season.
Shortstop Tim Beckham, out the past three games with a strained right hamstring, is hitting .188 this month after hitting .394 in August. Beckham badly wants to play the last three games at Tampa Bay, the team that traded him to the Orioles July 31, but he may not be able to.
Third baseman Manny Machado, named the American League's Player of the Month in August, is hitting .216 with seven RBIs in September.
Showalter moved Machado, who has 95 RBIs on the season, from second to third in the batting order for the Pirates series to try to get him some additional run-scoring opportunities.
Even second baseman Jonathan Schoop, the winner of the Most Valuable Oriole award, has slumped this month, batting .238.
Center fielder Adam Jones, worn down by leg soreness, missed the games in Pittsburgh, but Showalter said he may make an appearance this weekend.
Jones is one of the few offensive players who hasn't struggled in September. He's batting .308, although he hasn't had a home run this month.
Before Kevin Gausman's Sept. 26 start at Pittsburgh, Showalter said it would be the right-hander's final one of the season, but a day later he changed his mind. Gausman is now expected to start the season's final game Oct. 1.
Left-hander Wade Miley starts Sept. 29, and it's possible right-hander Miguel Castro could get the Sept. 30 start.
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