NEW YORK – Last year, and for most of this year, the Orioles clubhouse was a fun-loving place. Players making jokes, pulling pranks and enjoying the attention that comes with a winning team.
Suddenly, it’s all turned sour.
With four weeks to go in the regular season, the Orioles postseason chances have gone south, and the attitude in the clubhouse has matched it.
After the New York Yankees’ Ivan Nova shut out the Orioles 2-0 on three hits before 42,836 at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, the Orioles clubhouse turned surly. Few players were available to talk.
There wasn’t much to talk about. The Orioles managed just three singles against Nova (8-4), who recorded his second career complete game and first shutout. His first complete game was against the Orioles last month.
The loss nudged the Orioles (71-63) into fourth place in the American League East. They were passed by the Yankees (72-63) and after their fourth loss in five games in a challenging nine-game road trip to Boston, New York and Cleveland, the odds for a second straight playoff appearance seem quite long indeed.
“It’s, what do we have  games left? We need to play good. We don’t have long. We don’t have a whole lot left. The back’s kind of up against the wall. We need to start playing good baseball,” J.J. Hardy said.
Hardy walked against Nova, one of the few batters to even reach base. That was Nova’s only walk. He hit two batters, Adam Jones and Chris Davis. Matt Wieters, Manny Machado and Nate McLouth had basehits, the only ones.
“He’s a good pitcher. I’ve always thought he was good. Today, he was, obviously, what did he do? Three hits. Yeah, he was good today,” Hardy said.
Nova was nearly matched by Scott Feldman (4-4) who was a hard-luck loser for the Orioles. Feldman threw his best game since coming to Baltimore two months ago, one run on six hits, but his teammates could not do anything on his behalf.
“I don’t think you want to concede frustration. We kept battling and today he was just that good. For the most part, if our pitching staff keeps the other teams to two runs we are going to win a lot of those games,” Feldman said.
Feldman walked one, struck out five and hit two batters in seven.
On July 5, Nova threw his first major league complete game, allowing just three hits in a 3-2 Orioles loss. His second was even more impressive. Nova struck out five in throwing 104 pitches.
Baltimore is eight games over .500 for the first time since July 10. This week, they’ve faced Felix Doubront, John Lackey, Jon Lester, CC Sabathia and Nova and have scored just 13 runs, their worst five-game stretch of the season.
I think that's got more to do with it than anything else. I'd have a hard time putting a whole lot of emphasis on that part of it. When pitchers are on top of their game and hitters are on top of their game, the pitchers win," manager Buck Showalter said.
Brett Gardner led off the first with a double. With one out, he scored on Robinson Cano’s double off Feldman (4-4). Little did the Orioles know it would be the game’s decisive run.
“We still have the opportunity. We’re still playing the same teams that are fighting for the playoffs like we are. We know we need to start playing better and we need to win games. There’s a little bit of urgency to where we just need to get going. We know we’re still in it. It’s just a matter of putting together a good run at the end of the year,” Wieters said.
New York had runners on in every inning but the second against Feldman. In the fifth with runners on first and third and out one, Brian Roberts started a nifty 4-6-3 double play on Derek Jeter’s grounder to get out of the inning.
The Orioles had multiple runners on only in the second. Nova hit Jones with a pitch. Wieters singled, but Nick Markakis grounded into a double play.
Troy Patton allowed a homer to Cano leading off the eighth, his 25th.
“We haven’t scored enough runs. We just gotta find ways to scratch some runs across and when we score runs the pitchers have to find a way to hold them down,” Wieters said.
NOTES: Showalter said the Orioles would add at least one player from Norfolk for Sunday’s game.
-Wei-Yin Chen (7-7, 3.76) faces Andy Pettitte (10-9, 4.05) on Sunday.
-Kevin Gausman made his first appearance since July 9. He retired all three batters he faced.
-Michael Morse was in uniform, but didn’t play. He’s expected to start on Sunday.