Streaking through the season

If it's Thursday, the Orioles must be off. It happens three times on that day until we move to a new month.

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Today's open date either was planned or it melted off the schedule from the heat.

The temperature for last night's first pitch was 96 degrees. That's just wrong.

The Orioles have won three in a row and four of five. They lost five straight on the West Coast before returning home. They won five straight before making that trip. They had lost four in a row before getting hot. They had won five of six before cooling off.

They lost four in a row before that stretch. They won five of six before that stretch.

Remember the eight-game losing streak? Remember the 6-1 start before the eight-game losing streak?

It's been a crazy season. So many highs, so many lows.

What exactly is this team?

Well, it's only two games below .500 and five back in the loss column to the Red Sox and Yankees.

It's also missing Derrek Lee again, this time for three games while he's on the bereavement list. And Brian Roberts, the irreplaceable second baseman and leadoff hitter who hasn't played since May 16. And starters Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen, who were demoted to Triple-A Norfolk. And reliever Jason Berken, who reported to the Tides before them. And Justin Duchscherer, the projected No. 3 starter who hasn't thrown a pitch for them and might not ever do it.

J.J. Hardy spent a month on the disabled list. Brian Matusz, the projected No. 2 starter, didn't make his first start until June 1. Luke Scott is playing with a tear in his shoulder that drained his power, causing him to go homerless from May 3 until Tuesday night. Nick Markakis doesn't have an extra-base hit since May 15 and is batting .237.

Jake Fox, who hit 10 home runs in spring training and began the season as the backup catcher, is on waivers. Josh Rupe, who began the season as the long reliever, was outrighted. Cesar Izturis, the primary utility infielder, is on the 60-day disabled list.

Michael Gonzalez has a 7.36 ERA. Manager Buck Showalter didn't use his other lefty reliever, Clay Rapada, for 10 days, prompting Rapada to jokingly ask whether he was on the disabled list and nobody told him.

And through it all, the Orioles are two games below .500 on June 9. It's a head-scratcher. Or maybe it's more of a headache.

Does that leave you feeling at least a little encouraged about what lies ahead? That if they can hang this close despite all the adversity and underachieving and roster upheaval, they might actually give the rest of the division a run for its money?

They'll need to do better within the division. The Orioles are 8-14 against the East, 11-9 against the Central and 8-7 against the West.

Down on the farm, Single-A Frederick first baseman Tyler Townsend and center fielder Trent Mummey both left last night's game with hamstring injuries.

Townsend pulled up while running out a ground ball in the top of the fifth. Mummey, who missed significant time earlier this season after suffering a concussion, crumpled to the ground in the bottom of the fifth while chasing a ball in right-center field off the bat of rehabbing Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman.

What's going on with all the injuries in the minors?

Single-A Delmarva shortstop Manny Machado comes back, and two more players leave. And that doesn't include Double-A Bowie's Steve Johnson being knocked out of Tuesday night's game by a line drive.

I wrote last night about Baysox reliever Dan Klein undergoing an MRI on his right shoulder on Monday, and first baseman Joe Mahoney - the organization's minor league Player of the Year in 2010 - has dealt with quadriceps and hamstring ailments since spring training. Brandon Erbe couldn't pitch in a simulated game this week because of discomfort in his surgically repaired right shoulder.

Has anyone seen Luis Lebron? He's at extended spring training with Matt Hobgood and Ryan Berry.

Ask an Orioles pitching prospect about his favorite program, and it probably includes the word "throwing."

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