One of those baseball sayings is that you’re never as good as you look when you’re winning and you’re never as bad as you look when you’re losing. The Orioles can only hope this saying is true because at the moment they look really, really bad.
Saturday’s game continued the post-All-Star break trend, which, other than a five-game winning streak, has basically been nothing but losing and mostly losing ugly. They came into the game with a mere half-game edge in the division and instead of playing like a team defending its position, they just looked lifeless in losing, 9-1.
No team is going to win very many games when they give up nine runs, so the prime culprit is once again the pitching staff, and especially the starting rotation. This is nothing new for the 2016 season. Yovani Gallardo started the game, was good for four innings, then fell apart, giving up the full Tommy Hunter (five runs, all earned) in only 4.1 innings of work.
That’s bad and there’s nothing else to say about it. When a team gives up its top draft pick to sign a guy and it’s July and he has a 5.70 ERA and there’s no sign of improvement in sight, that’s bad too. Whatever the Orioles thought they saw in Gallardo was wrong, and so, too, was whatever led the Orioles to believe they could wait out the starting pitching market and just get one of the last unsigned guys.
They are paying the price for that in many ways, one of which is every time Gallardo pitches and has a line like today’s, where he gives up five runs on five hits and five walks. You have to try really hard to walk five batters in less than five innings of work.
Not that Gallardo is the only culprit. Mychal Givens, called into a bases loaded, one out situation in relief in the fifth inning, was also bad. Givens allowed all three inherited runners to score, starting with a bases loaded walk, and ended up allowing two runs of his own to score in just two-thirds of an inning.
And just in case you weren’t having enough fun yet, Odrisamer Despaigne allowed another two runs in two innings. It’s not a recipe for success, that’s for sure. The only Orioles pitcher who didn’t allow a run was the newest Oriole, Logan Ondrusek. My scouting report on him is that he is very tall.
The offense also sucks
No team is going to win very many games where they only get five hits, either. The Orioles offense, for all of its potential - which we saw realized often early in the season - is slumbering of late and it has cost them a lot since the All-Star break.
How bad is it? As a team, since the break, they entered today’s game batting .218/.272/.347, and today’s 5-31 batting surely did not do much to help that. Good teams have bad stretches, of course, but that doesn’t make them any more fun to watch when things are bad.
Maybe it’s all the human tendency to panic. Maybe this too shall pass, as most things do. But it’s hard to watch a flailing Chris Davis, who was struggling this month even before the flu or whatever it was that caused him to miss several games and seems to have made him lose weight as well.
It’s hard, too, to watch Matt Wieters, who missed a week after fouling a ball off his foot, who the announcers also said was battling something involving his left shoulder. He looks like he could not hit is way out of a wet paper bag.
Mark Trumbo is another Oriole enduring an unpleasant post-break slump. No reason that might explain that is known. Perhaps that’s just the Adam Jones Theory of Everything at work. Sometimes you suck. Jones did not suck today. He went 2-4.
The only run scored by the Orioles in the game came in the second inning, when Pedro Alvarez homered off of Jays starter J.A. Happ. That was the 13th homer of the year for Alvarez, and his first of the season against a left-handed pitcher.
It was one of only three hits that Happ allowed in seven-plus innings of work. He struck out eleven Orioles, which is a lot even considering this team’s proclivities. Now there is a pitcher the Orioles probably should have signed instead. Happ’s in the first year of a three year, $36 million contract. He did not cost a draft pick.
Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but one hopes the Orioles are analyzing where they went wrong so they can try not to get it wrong again next time. And even if they do figure that out, well, that bit of knowledge isn’t going to do a dang thing to help them win this season.
So, they’re out of first place now. Of course they are, with how they’ve played for the last two weeks. They can take their half-game edge back tomorrow in a 1:07 game started by Chris Tillman, who is coming off one of his worst starts of the season. And this slumping offense will only have to face Aaron Sanchez, the best Blue Jays starter by ERA at 2.72. It’s only one game, and yet...