The Baltimore Orioles lost to the Toronto Blue Jays 4-1 on Wednesday, May 30. The loss was the fifth straight for an Orioles team that is still clinging to a share of first place in the American League East.
Thanks to the Tampa Rays' loss to the Chicago White Sox earlier in the day, the Orioles remain tied with Tampa atop the division at 29-22. The three-game sweep of Baltimore has moved the Blue Jays to 27-24 on the season, tied with the Yankees at two games back.
The free-fall for the Orioles shouldn't come as a complete shock. The Orioles were as many as 13 games over .500 just a few weeks ago despite having the worst run-differential in the AL East. The recent skid could just be the Orioles sliding back into the pack of a very competitive division.
The Orioles' losing streak has been fueled by lackluster starting pitching efforts and the cumulative effect of a number of injuries in the lineup. Opening day starter Jake Arrieta has been an enigma for the Orioles. Arrieta has been healthy and dominant at times, but for the season he is just 2-6 with a 5.37 ERA. Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen have been pleasant surprises for the Orioles thus far, but their performance is likely to regress at some point. Hammel took the loss on Wednesday after allowing four home runs to the Blue Jays. Tommy Hunter was recently demoted to Triple-A Norfolk after another disastrous outing on Monday night. Hunter went just 2-3 with a 5.59 ERA in 10 starts for Baltimore.
If the Orioles are going to keep pace in the AL East they'll need Arrieta and Brian Matusz to begin showing some consistency. The healthy return of Zach Britton, currently on a minor league rehab assignment, could provide a big boost to the ailing Baltimore rotation.
The Orioles are also dealing with injuries to several regulars. Nolan Reimold began the season as the left fielder and leadoff hitter, but he's currently on the disabled list dealing with a neck issue. He isn't expected back anytime soon. The loss of Reimold, as well as the unavailability of Brian Roberts, has left the top of the Baltimore order unsettled. Buck Showalter has tried players like Xavier Avery, Endy Chavez, Ryan Flaherty, and Robert Andino at the leadoff spot. They've all failed to produce. Roberts is currently on a rehab assignment and could rejoin the Orioles sometime in June. His return can't come soon enough.
*Information gathered from http://www.baseball-reference.com