BALTIMORE -- For eight years in the Orioles organization, when Jonathan Schoop or Manny Machado homered, the other was waiting in glee at the top of the dugout, happier than if either player had homered himself.What would then ensue can't be accurately described -- a little hand slapping, a bit
BALTIMORE -- For eight years in the Orioles organization, when Jonathan Schoop or Manny Machado homered, the other was waiting in glee at the top of the dugout, happier than if either player had homered himself.
What would then ensue can't be accurately described -- a little hand slapping, a bit of forearm bashing here and there and some arm flexing. Since words also couldn't describe their friendship, this handshake seemed to do the job.
Five times in the past six games -- including once in Thursday's 4-3 loss to the Rays -- Schoop has homered for the Orioles, continuing his torrid stretch to open the second half of the season. But each time, Machado hasn't been there to congratulate him.
"Since the Minor Leagues, he's the first one out there," Schoop said. "So it's been weird, but I have to get used to it."
Less than 15 minutes after Schoop temporarily tied Thursday's contest with a homer in his fourth straight game, Machado hit his first homer for the Dodgers in Atlanta. The handshakes that greeted Machado in the dugout were standard. No flair. No best friend.
When he was traded, Machado took to Instagram to pass the Orioles torch to Schoop. He also made sure his comrade was given his corner locker in the Orioles clubhouse. In six games since, the second baseman is hitting .370 with five homers and nine RBIs.
But while Schoop remains hot without his best friend, the Orioles remain cold.
Thursday's loss to the Rays was the fifth the Orioles have conceded in six games since the All-Star break. Alex Cobb was solid in the early part of his second start since the break but began to falter a second time through the order. Leadoff doubles in the fourth and seventh innings were capitalized on by the Rays. Neither of the RBI singles in the fourth reached a Statcast™ hit probability greater than 30 percent.
"I'm just trying to win. Maybe I should stop trying so hard. Maybe that'll help," Cobb quipped. "When you give up soft contact [and] runs score, it's hard to try to feel like you did the right thing … because you get so angry and so frustrated with it. But you have to understand that you don't need to change anything out there."
Chris Davis added a solo homer in the eighth, but a bases-loaded error an inning earlier by reliever Jhan Marinez proved detrimental. It allowed Joey Wendle to cross the plate for a fourth Rays run, and the Orioles were unable to find a run to match it.
But the details of the Orioles' losses have become afterthoughts. Attention is fully on a rebuild, which may or may not include Schoop, who has a year left on his contract as a centerpiece.
With the torch now in Schoop's hands, there's been an increased need for his leadership in the infield with his double play partner gone -- a role for Schoop that manager Buck Showalter says is not new.
"A lot of people you'd love to follow his lead," Showalter said. "He's just real sincere. But Jon hasn't changed at all. Jon is the same guy, he's always approachable, a pleasure to be around every day."
Though thousands of miles apart, Schoop and Machado still trade texts whenever one does something of note. For Schoop, that's been a nightly occurrence. On Thursday, it was true for both.
"I didn't shoot him a text yet, but I hope he shoots me one first," Schoop joked. "Because he saw mine first. I hit mine first."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Paul Fry got a crucial double-play ball to potentially save the Orioles in the seventh, but he hit and walked the ensuing batters to leave the bases loaded for Marinez. In his 100th career appearance, Marinez induced what could have been a inning-ending grounder near the mound, but he rushed the throw to first and Davis couldn't corral it. Luckily, Davis was able to throw home to catch Mallex Smith trying to tack on an extra run to end the inning.
"He had a chance to get a really big out for us there and did everything right except that throw over there," Showalter said. "Chris was heads up, and Caleb [Joseph, catcher] -- we were able to get the out at the plate, but we would have gotten the out at first base, obviously. We got a big double-play ball, and I thought the hit by pitch kind of took the momentum away."
Schoop is the first Oriole with homers in four straight games since Davis from Aug. 17-20, 2016.
"The ball is just going for me. I put the ball in front, and when they give me a pitch, I don't miss it," said Schoop, who owned a .197 average before July. "And I keep believing in myself. I know in baseball, you go through a bad stretch, but you want to minimize the bad stretch and extend the good stretch, so I'm trying to extend the good stretch right now."
HE SAID IT
"I think it's something that we all realized was a possibility, but you don't know how you're going to feel until it actually happens, and it's definitely a different atmosphere. I don't want to say quieter. It's just different. I preached at Spring Training last year and earlier this year how special it is trying to play with the same group of guys for as many years as we did, and I think some of the younger guys don't realize how special it is to have the same group together year in and year out. And we're starting to see some of those guys go, and it's tough, but we've got to make the best of the situation we're in." -- Davis, on the Orioles' rebuild
The Orioles will send Andrew Cashner (2-9, 4.40 ERA) to the mound on Friday night opposite Rays ace Chris Archer (3-4, 4.30). Cashner looked good in his return from the disabled list Sunday but had to settle for a no-decision after allowing just one run over 5 2/3 frames in Toronto. First pitch is slated for 7:05 p.m. ET.
Zachary Silver is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore. Follow him on Twitter at @zachsilver .