Remember the O's four-game sweep of the Rangers last week that at least gave fans a faint hope that the team could play better baseball in the second half of the season? Yeah, that hasn't really happened yet.
In another hard-to-watch game, the Rays shelled Chris Tillman and blew the O's out 8-1. Tillman, like Brian Matusz the day before (1.2 IP, 6 ER, 5 H), wasn't effective at all. He gave up eight runs on seven hits in 2.2 innings, officially putting the game out of reach for the O's and their overmatched offense.
Since the All-Star break, the O's have lost all four of their games -- three to the Blue Jays, and now one to the Rays. In those games, the O's have scored just six runs, which is absolutely terrible. And not that it excuses the poor pitching performances from Matusz and Tillman, but it must be rather difficult to pitch when they're (possibly) thinking that giving up just a few runs will be insurmountable for the O's inept offense.
Speaking of offense, or the lack thereof, the O's had seven hits and one walk against Rays' starter Wade Davis, who gave up just one run in eight solid innings. The O's lone run came in the fifth inning when Cesar Izturis singled in Scott Moore. Izturis and Craig Tatum each had two hits.
By the way, the bullpen was actually very good yesterday. In 6.1 scoreless innings, Matt Albers, David Hernandez, Koji Uehara, and Alfredo Simon allowed just two hits while striking out seven Rays. Not bad, guys.
With the loss, the O's fall to 29-63 on the season.
Still, there is some good news. Luke Scott returned from the disabled list yesterday and went 1-4 with a single. And Brian Roberts is in Bowie for a rehab assignment and could be back with the O's in a few weeks. The return of Roberts to the leadoff spot would be big for the O's, who, despite the hot stretch by Corey Patterson before he got hurt, have really missed Roberts's ability to work the count, get on base, and be a nuisance on the basepaths. And although Felix Pie is talented and has improved at the plate, he is not a leadoff hitter; in the leadoff spot last night, Pie went 1-4 with a single, but he also saw just 10 pitches.
One other thing: It's time to end the Miguel Tejada experiment in Baltimore. I think Tejada is a nice guy. But not only is he playing below average defense at third base, he's adding very little offensive production to the lineup while batting second for most of the season. Sure, with injuries to guys like Roberts, Scott, and Matt Wieters, the options haven't really been there for the O's to move guys around to different spots. But Tejada, who is hitting .272/.311/.368 after an 0-4 last night, hasn't given the O's anything more than a singles hitter who doesn't get on base enough or hit for much power at all.
At 23 years old, Josh Bell might not be ready to play third base in a full-time role for the O's. And, who knows, he may never be that guy. In six games and 19 at-bats, he has five hits (all singles) but has struck out eight times. But if he's in Baltimore, he should be playing just about everyday instead of sitting the bench in favor of Tejada. The same can be said of the current platoon situation at second base between Julio Lugo and Scott Moore, though that probably doesn't matter as much with Roberts close to returning.
Basically, it comes down to this: No matter who the O's put in the lineup right now or bring up from the minors, they just aren't going to win this season or maybe even next season. So who would you rather watch while the team is bad, the current versions of Tejada and Lugo, or Bell and Moore? The answer should be pretty obvious.