Give this to the Orioles: When they bring their considerable resolve to a task, they break all known records in reaching that goal. Unfortunately for Orioles fans, the task in the Astros series has been "strike out as many times as possible," which they continued to do in the finale, a 4-2 loss on Thursday night.
No one in the history of baseball had ever done what the Orioles have done in this series. After striking out 19 times on Tuesday night and 18 times in Wednesday's game, the O's added another 15 strikeouts in this game, setting a new record for most strikeouts in a three game series. That adds up to 52 strikeouts. The old record was 47.
It was an impressive level of futility for the team once again. Houston starter Lance McCullers was almost incapable of throwing the ball near the strike zone at times. He walked six batters and threw so many pitches that he had to leave the game after five innings after having thrown 108 pitches.
Still the Orioles managed to strike out ten times against McCullers. In his fifth and last inning, the six batters he faced alternated walks and strikeouts. How do you even do that? Very carefully, I suppose.
One hit is a lonely hunter
Oh, and the Orioles only got one lone hit against McCullers. Are you serious with this right now, Orioles? They seem to be all-too-serious. It's crazy. The lone hit was a solo home run, a Houston-appropriate rocket off the bat of Mark Trumbo for Trumbo's 14th of the year.
This was not a game where one lone solo home run would be enough. O's starter Kevin Gausman gave up three home runs himself. The Astros did not score any runs that did not come via a home run off of Gausman.
George Springer hit two solo shots, one to lead off the game and one in the fifth inning. So did Luis Valbuena, whom the Orioles have inexplicably turned into Barry Bonds in this series. Valbuena homered in each of the three games. The guy was batting .197 before the series began.
Gausman himself pitched for only five innings as well, giving up four runs on five hits while walking a batter. He struck out seven. Other than the homers... but then, that's like asking Mrs. Lincoln, "How was the play?"
For all of that, the O's managed to battle back to get the tying run to the plate before the game ended. Hyun Soo Kim, the game's #8 batter, led off the inning with a Kim-tested infield single, a little chopper that was just out of the reach of Astros second baseman Jose Altuve.
This was Kim's second hit of the game. He was 2-4 on the night. Play this man some more!
Neither of the next two batters advanced Kim anywhere, although pinch hitter Pedro Alvarez at least made solid contact on a ball - just solid contact that went right at the left fielder. A moral victory in a strikeout-laden series, perhaps? No. Moral victories are for losers.
Joey Rickard popped out for the second out, ending any chance of the O's to pull themselves up to 17 strikeouts for a 19-18-17 strikeout series. A real missed opportunity there.
It all came down to Manny Machado, who the Astros wanted nothing to do with tonight. They walked him three times - though none were intentional tonight. Machado hit a fly ball over Springer's head in right field that somehow allowed Kim to score even though Machado only got a single. Well, going on contact with two outs probably helped him.
So Chris Davis came up to the plate representing the tying run. Astros reliever Ken Giles, who drew the ninth inning duty, has been bad this year, allowing four home runs in only 19.1 innings heading into tonight. Davis hits home runs, sometimes. Not tonight. He grounded out weakly to Altuve and the game was over.
Swept into the garbage can
With the loss, the Orioles were on the wrong end of a sweep for the first time this season. With the way they're hitting right now, it's impressive it took them until almost Memorial Day to get swept, really. They also have a season-long four game losing streak.
It's not the end of the world, losing four straight games. Even a good team will have losing streaks. The division winning Orioles of 2014 had three different four game losing streaks in the regular season, although they never lost a fifth in a row at any point.
Still, that doesn't make it a whole heck of a lot of fun to watch these games right now. On the MASN broadcast of the game, Jim Palmer was barely able to contain his disgust and incredulity at what he was witnessing with all of the strikeouts. "It's like they've never seen a breaking ball before," Palmer said at one point in the midst of the Orioles hitters flailing away at junk.
One bright spot in the game is that minor league grinder Ashur Tolliver, called up on Tuesday, got to make his big league debut in front of family and friends. His cheering section was caught on the MASN cameras and adorably excited for Tolliver.
Tolliver, the lefty replacing Brian Matusz, retired four of the five batters he faced, issuing only a walk. Tolliver also struck out three batters. Some of them were even right-handed. You can stay, Ashur.
As things stand right now, the Orioles have two members of the 2009 draft in their bullpen - Tolliver (fifth round) and Mychal Givens (second). Not bad if they are getting some small contribution from the Matt Hobgood-fronted draft that, for a long time, seemed like a complete waste.
Another piece of good news is that the Red Sox lost to the Rockies on Thursday night, so the O's don't fall any farther behind in the division. But they really need to (if I might borrow an Adam Jones-ism) clean their ish up.
The Cleveland Indians await the Orioles next as the O's head to their third city in this three time zone-spanning road trip. Mike Wright is the scheduled starter for the O's in the 7:10 opener, with Trevor Bauer starting for the Indians.