With three weeks of the 2018 season complete, the Baltimore Orioles have won just five games.
Three weeks ago, the Orioles scored an exciting, 3-2 walk-off win on Opening Day. The weather was warm, and the play on the field was excellent.
Since then, they've lost 13 times and won four.
There are so many reasons. Sure, the schedule has been hard. In their first five series, the Orioles played four of the five teams -- Minnesota, Houston, New York and Boston -- that qualified for the postseason in the American League last year.
When they return to Baltimore for just their seventh home game of the season April 20, they'll play a four-game series with the fifth 2017 AL postseason team – Cleveland.
But the Orioles will also play their share of teams that aren't expected to be in the postseason conversation this year. With a 6-5 loss April 18, the Orioles have now lost two in a row to the Detroit Tigers, a team in full rebuilding mode.
The team's losing streak stands at five games, and the Orioles have lost five of their first six series. They lone series win came at Yankee Stadium April 5-8, when the Orioles won three of four. They have been swept twice, in Houston and Boston.
The Orioles got another quality start against the Tigers. Right-hander Kevin Gausman allowed two runs on nine hits in six innings, but through seven innings, Baltimore had just two hits in support of him.
When they mounted a comeback and scored three runs in the eighth, reliever Darren O'Day quickly gave back the lead, allowing a three-run home run to catcher John Hicks.
In the top of the ninth, utility infielder Luis Sardinas, who was called up from Triple-A Norfolk the day before, hit a pinch-hit home run to tie the score at 5, but Rule 5 reliever Pedro Araujo gave up a game-ending home run to Detroit's Dixon Machado in the bottom of the inning.
In a difficult start to the season, this may have been the worst moment. The bats were quiet for seven innings, as another good start is wasted. They finally get some late-inning clutch hitting, and the once formidable bullpen is unreliable.
The Orioles miss All-Star second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who is out with a strained oblique, but they also miss left-handed closer Zach Britton, who is still more than a month away from returning after surgery to repair a torn Achilles.
There's still no word on when Mark Trumbo will return, either. The designated hitter has yet to play this season after a right quad injury. Trumbo was ramping up for a return when the quad tightened on him during his first rehab game for Double-A Bowie, and his 2018 debut was put on hold.
Trumbo's injury allowed Pedro Alvarez to make the team as a DH, and his presence is one of the season's bright spots. He's batting .308 in 14 games.
Besides Alvarez, only left fielder Trey Mancini (.292 batting average with a .366 on-base percentage) and shortstop Manny Machado (.319 with a .402 OBP) have been offensive standouts.
The list of laggards is long. First baseman Chris Davis (.136 with a .250 OBP) and third baseman Tim Beckham (.162 with a .227 OBP) lead the list, and if catcher Caleb Joseph (.081 average) doesn't perk up soon, he may lose more playing time to rookie Chance Sisco.
While the Orioles have played just slightly more than 10 percent of their schedule and theoretically there is still lots of time for them to make up lost ground, they can't afford to waste quality starts like they have the past two games from Gausman and right-hander Andrew Cashner.
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