The 2021 Baltimore Orioles had lost 19 straight games entering their Wednesday night matchup against Shohei Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels. Naturally, they avoided running their losing streak to 20 in a row thanks to a come-from-behind victory that saw them score five eighth-inning runs against the Angels bullpen on Wednesday.
This wasn't the first time in franchise history that has happened, but at least maybe there's some solace that this streak didn't happen to start the year? Some fans might recall this 1988 Sports Illustrated cover, tweeted out recently by the great baseball reporter Peter Gammons:
As a 9-year-old subscriber who thought it was amazing to see his name on a magazine -- wow, I didn't realize I'd make myself feel so old today -- this is one of a handful of covers ingrained in my memory forever. I also remember the Orioles lost three more games to start the season 0-21 before notching their first win.
I've actually thought about that Orioles season several times these last few years. That team would end up 54-107 and it was the worst Orioles team in history by a decent chunk. If we exclude the St. Louis Browns years and talk only about the Baltimore Orioles, the next-worst team was the 2009 Orioles who went 64-98.
Until recent years, that is.
- The 2018 Orioles were 47-115, one of the worst teams in MLB history.
- The 2019 Orioles were a bit better, at a woeful 54-108.
- The 2021 Orioles are now 39-86, which is a 50-win pace.
And, as noted with the 19-game losing streak, they were getting worse as they went.
Here are the only losing streaks in MLB history (since 1900) as long as what the Orioles just endured (via baseball-reference.com's stathead):
- 23 games - 1961 Phillies (July 29-Aug. 20)
- 21 games - 1988 Orioles (April 4-April 28)
- 20 games - 1906 Red Sox (May 1-May 24)
20 games - 1916 A's (July 21-Aug. 8)
20 games - 1943 A's (Aug. 7-Aug. 24)
20 games - 1969 Expos (May 13-June 7)
- 19 games - 1906 Braves (May 17-June 8)
19 games - 1914 Reds (Sept. 6-Sept. 23)
19 games - 1975 Tigers (July 29-Aug. 15)
19 games - 2005 Royals (July 28-Aug. 19)
19 games - 2021 Orioles (Aug. 3-Aug. 24)
The O's skid was the longest in baseball since 2005 and would have became the longest of the wild card era with one more loss.
Oh, and it's not just the losses. They were getting crushed:
In those 19 losses, the Orioles gave up 163 runs and scored just 55. Only one of their 19 losses was a one-run game. Ten of the 19 losses were by at least five runs. This is all to say, it wasn't a fluke. The Orioles were earning every bit of their losing streak.
Even worse, the Orioles are looking at one of the worst months in baseball history. They started 1-20 in August. That's a .048 winning percentage. The record for the worst August win percentage is .103 (the 1943 A's were 3-26). The worst May is 3-26 (1982 Twins), the worst full June was 3-24 (shout-out to the 2021 Diamondbacks, who lost 17 games in a row two months ago) and the worst full July was 2-26 (1916 A's).
Of course, the 1-22 mark the Orioles set in April of 1988 was always going to be tough to match.
Had the Angels swept the Orioles in three games, not only would it have tied the franchise and AL record at 21 straight losses, but Baltimore's schedule would have really firmed up. The Orioles will now host three games against the Rays before hitting the road to deal with the Yankees and Blue Jays.
Granted, it's a lot more fun to track the teams in contention and players fighting for individual awards at this time of the year, but the Orioles weren't letting us look away. They were (and are) playing historically bad baseball. Again. At least this time around it's just digital imagery and that stuff isn't quite ingrained in our minds as much as '80s magazine covers, right?