The Orioles entered play on Monday night just one game out of a wild card spot in the American League. Every now and again, the fact that they’re so close in the race can trick you into forgetting how horrible of a team they are capable of being. Then, there are games like this 12-0 loss at the hands of the first place Indians to remind you. It got ugly.
Whether the Orioles themselves were embarrassed by the performance is only something they can answer, but it was certainly embarrassing to watch them. The last time the Orioles allowed fewer than five runs to score was June 2. That streak was continued before the fifth inning was over on Monday night. Things did not get any better from there.
What’s worse is that this was a Dylan Bundy start. He has been the one starting pitcher you could count on for the first two months. Bundy appeared to not have his best command and he was accordingly shelled. The Indians got six hits and three walks against Bundy in just 4.1 innings and scored six runs off of him.
June has not been a good month for Bundy. Three of his four starts have gone for fewer than six innings and he has now allowed 15 runs in 20.1 innings for the month. That is a 6.64 June ERA. All players go through tough times, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Orioles are not a team that’s built to weather the tough times of its best players.
Is whatever has dragged him down going to be an ongoing concern for Bundy for the rest of the year? If so, no matter their current proximity to the wild card, it’s hard to see this Orioles team as being one with a chance of going anywhere good.
When Bundy was relieved in the fifth inning, Vidal Nuno came on to pitch. The exact scenario of Nuno relieving Bundy so early in a near-lost cause kind of game made me wonder at the problems that I have that I was still watching.
Nuno featured in Sunday’s win over the Cardinals - featured in the sense that he pitched to two batters, retired neither, and gave up two runs. His Monday effort was more of the same. In fact, Nuno managed to achieve the full Tommy Hunter (five runs, all earned) in a relief outing that lasted for just two outs. When you give up six hits and two walks, that’s something that’s going to happen.
A key strategy for the Orioles this season was to stock up the team with depth in the vein of Nuno, players who they could acquire cheaply, for a player to be named later or cash, who still had minor league options remaining and could ride the Norfolk-Baltimore shuttle.
That was a nice theory and all, but it turns out that there’s a reason why all of the pitchers like Nuno could be had for PTBNL or cash. There will probably never be a game where both Nuno and Gabriel Ynoa pitch where you feel good about the Orioles at the end of it.
Ynoa actually didn’t allow the Indians to score in three innings pitched, though he did come into a bases loaded, nobody out situation and two of those inherited runners scored. It could have been worse than that, anyway. He did, at least, eat some of the garbage time innings.
As it turned out, it wouldn’t have really mattered whether Bundy was good or whether Nuno could be good or anything else, because Orioles hitters ran into the buzzsaw of Corey Kluber, looking like his 2014 Cy Young-winning self. Kluber had not looked like that pitcher at times this season, but ever since returning from the disabled list at the start of this month, he’s been looking like his best self.
There was never much doubt that Kluber would pitch a complete game. He was on fire from the get-go in a way that Bundy never was, even in the first three innings before Bundy had allowed any runs. Kluber himself threw just 108 pitches as he shut out the O’s. The Orioles four pitchers combined to throw 212 pitches to Indians batters.
Kluber racked up 11 strikeouts against Orioles batters and held them to just three hits. Those were their only baserunners. They had no walks and no men in scoring position at any point in the game. That’s a tough recipe for a victory any time.
There are games where you just lose to good pitchers and that’s that. But it’s a whole lot easier to feel slightly better about those games if your pitching staff isn’t getting chased out of the building. Seven of the nine starting Indians batters had multi-hit games. They scored 12 runs and that was despite leaving 13 men on base.
The Orioles flaws continue to be there for all to see, and if Bundy isn’t going to be pitching as well as he was early on in the season, they don’t have even a single reliable starting pitcher.
With the loss, the Orioles are below .500 again, though they do remain just a game out of that wild card race. The American League standings are weird at this point. Watching games like tonight, I can only hope that they don’t delude themselves into thinking they are contenders.
For all of the many glaring flaws that they have even if their best players are playing well - which they aren’t - the path for the Orioles to be serious contenders is very small. Trading even a D-list prospect in a futile-seeming hope to reinforce this collection of players is not an exciting thought.
The Orioles will have a chance to get back up to .500 on Tuesday night as the series against the Indians continues. Indians starter Josh Tomlin has a 5.83 ERA, a good sign on the surface. Then again, Orioles starter Chris Tillman has an ERA in excess of 8.