MILWAUKEE — The Orioles may have shown some signs of life a week ago with two road series wins, but they now find themselves in another slump as they stumble their way into the All-Star Break.

This week’s series against Milwaukee did nothing but confirm, once again, that the O’s don’t have what it takes to be contenders. Despite being successful in interleague play this season, the Birds struggled against the NL Central-leading Brewers and were outscored 18-3 in the three-game sweep.

It all started on Monday with an 8-1 loss. Wade Miley didn’t make it out of the second inning after getting tagged for seven runs on 67 pitches. The bullpen was fairly successful in relief but the deficit was too big to overcome. Five Brewers players scored at least one run in the blowout victory.

The O’s starting pitching didn’t get any better in game two as Ubaldo Jimenez returned to his sub-par level of play. Jimenez turned in the best orioles start of the season last week but this time he gave up five runs in five innings of work.

The Brewers’ starting pitching was the exact opposite in this series. On Tuesday, Jimmy Nelson turned in another great start and picked up his seventh win of the season. For the offense, Eric Thames led the way by hitting two homers and pushed his total to 23 on the season.

Once again the O’s found themselves trying to avoid a sweep after dropping the first two games of the series. They were able to scrap together a win on Sunday against Tampa, but it looked much more difficult this time around. With Chris Tillman on paternity leave, Jayson Aquino was called upon to make the start for the O’s on Wednesday.

Aquino started his night with three solid innings but ran into some trouble in the fourth. The spot starter gave up four runs before exiting in the sixth inning. It was disappointing to see his solid start fall apart, but he received no run support from the offense. Given the circumstances Aquino was very serviceable.

The O’s lineup had a prime chance to jump out to an early lead when they loaded the bases with no outs in the second inning. Somehow it wasn’t very surprising to see the next three batters strike out and fly out to end the inning without scoring. It goes without saying but this is unacceptable, especially when you have a spot starter on the mound.

Some of the only good news in this series was the return of Zach Britton. The Orioles star closer was able to make his long-awaited return in the seventh inning of Wednesday’s game, allowing one hit on 19 pitches. His presence will certainly add more consistency and depth to the bullpen, but that does not matter if the Orioles aren’t scoring runs and the starting pitching continues to be as bad as it has been .

Just like the first two games, scoring opportunities were wasted as the O’s racked up eight hits but quickly left runners stranded. The Brewers closed out the series with a 4-0 win and secured a place atop the NL Central for the near future. Meanwhile the Orioles are in a free fall and find themselves nine games behind the AL East-leading Red Sox.

The O’s will close out the first half of the season with a four-game series at Minnesota later this week. When these teams met back in May, the Twins walked away with a sweep. This time around, the O’s will need a sweep just to get back to .500.

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