The Baltimore Orioles have allowed five or more runs in each of their last 19 games, and tonight, they have a chance to tie the all-time record for most consecutive games with five or more runs allowed.
According to Baseball Reference, the 1924 Phillies allowed at least five runs per game in 20 consecutive games—basically their entire September of that season. It’s a weird, fairly arbitrary streak, but it’s not a fun one for either club.
Common sense holds up in this case: The 1924 Phillies had a record of 4-16 with a club ERA of 7.20 during the streak (and they lost 96 games total that season). The 2017 Orioles are 6-13 with a 7.33 team ERA during their 19-game streak. The O’s probably won’t go on to lose nearly 100 games like their 1924 bedfellows—they’re still just two games under .500 overall—but this rough patch hasn’t been good for their playoff chances.
If they Orioles want to avoid tying the Phillies’ record, they’ll have an uphill battle in Tampa Bay tonight. Starting for Baltimore will be Ubaldo Jimenez, who carries a 6.25 ERA and has been shuffling between the bullpen and rotation all year. He did manage to hold the Cardinals to just two runs over seven innings in his last start, however.
If Jimenez can’t stop the streak, then it will fall to Dylan Bundy to save his team from breaking the Phillies’ record on Saturday night. His 3.72 ERA is encouraging, but his last start, in which he gave up six runs in less than five innings, was his worst of the season.
A streak like this doesn’t happen by complete accident, of course. The O’s have the worst team ERA in baseball at 5.10, and their starting rotation has a—children, avert your eyes—5.61 ERA through 72 games. The runs-allowed streak is certainly not incongruous with what the O’s pitching staff has to offer.
Though this streak may be a source of embarrassment for the O’s, the team should be proud of how they’ve managed to tread water despite the pitching functioning as an anchor around the neck. If you use Bill James’s pythagorean win-loss formula, the Orioles should be a 30-win team today; instead, they’re a shade under .500 with a record of 35-37. They’ve won just as many games as the Blue Jays and Royals despite having a run differential that is worse than both of those teams’ combined. There are a lot of ways to be a mediocre team, and the Orioles at least have found one with the potential to make history.