With two straight series wins against teams that aren’t good followed by an off day and a rainout, there has been a week in which we have not been reminded continually that the Orioles are also not good. On Wednesday afternoon, facing a good Phillies team, the O’s lost 4-1 and in the process reminded us once again that, oh yeah, they are not a good baseball team.
This was not an embarrassing blowout. In the worst of times this year, they played their share of those. It was just a game where they weren’t good enough. The Orioles offense, over the course of the whole game, picked up just four hits and two walks. They struck out 13 times. The O’s are not chock full of starting pitchers who are capable of overcoming that kind of effort from the offense. So, they lost.
Unlike many games, the Orioles did not trail from the first inning onward. In fact, starting pitcher Andrew Cashner retired the Phillies in the first. O’s starters haven’t shown it often this year, but it is allowed to not give up any first inning runs to the other team.
Add to that Adam Jones jumping on a pitch from Phillies starter Nick Pivetta in the bottom of the first and the Orioles actually had a 1-0 lead for a lot of the game. This was the seventh home run of the season for Jones. Unfortunately for the O’s, Pivetta started cruising from there, allowing just one more hit between then and the end of the seventh inning, and the Orioles did not score again in the game.
The 1-0 lead held until the sixth inning. Through five innings, Cashner was not much worse than Pivetta, allowing two hits and two walks while striking out five batters. There were some elevated pitch counts, though, so he ended up heading into the sixth inning with two things working against him: He was at the 75+ pitch mark and he was heading into the third time through the Phillies order.
Even pitchers who are good are not as good the third time through the other team’s lineup. This is a fact of present-day baseball and it is why bullpen use is more aggressive. Cashner, who is not all that good, is no exception to this rule, with these stats allowed heading into today:
- First time through the order: .226/.324./.516 (.840 OPS)
- Second time through the order: .239/.292/.478 (.769 OPS)
- Third time through the order: .341/.442/.545 (.988 OPS)
Cashner was better overall last season but the trend still played out: A .603 OPS against first time through the lineup and .831 the third time. Pitches 76-100 saw him with a .967 OPS against last year. Heading into today, it was a .945 OPS against in that pitch range.
I mention all of this in this recap because the first batter Cashner faced in the sixth inning, Cesar Hernandez, was the Phillies leadoff hitter, so he was hitting the third time through the order while nearing his pitch danger zone. Hernandez swung at the first pitch and hit a home run to tie the game. For Hernandez, this was the fifth home run of the season.
If that was all, Orioles fans who remember Ubaldo Jimenez and Wade Miley would still jump for joy. Cashner got close, retiring the next two batters on a total of nine pitches, before his tank emptied out. He walked Carlos Santana in a nine-pitch plate appearance, then gave up back-to-back singles to Nick Williams and Maikel Franco. This second single scored a run, giving the Phillies the lead for good.
Cashner’s final line saw him with 103 pitches to get through 5.2 innings, giving up five hits and three walks while striking out six. He hit that 75 pitch danger zone immediately after the Hernandez home run, and then he had real problems. This is not a surprising outcome.
Does it all mean that Cashner should be yanked at the first time he runs into trouble any time after he has gotten through five innings? Maybe, although it would be easier to argue for this if the Orioles had a better-performing bullpen in 2018. More analytically-inclined teams would be likely to do so. MASN’s Jim Hunter noted early in the game that the Phillies analytics department has 42 people in it. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess the Orioles do not have nearly so many analytics people.
Even thus far dependable Richard Bleier allowed one of the inherited runners to score and gave up a Mark Trumbo-aided triple the next inning, leading to the Phillies fourth run of the game. If even Bleier is giving up runs, perhaps fretting over when to bring in the bullpen is a moot point anyway.
Orioles starting pitching being what it has over the past three seasons, you can’t even really get that mad about three earned runs in 5.2 innings. It’s not great, but it’s not some Chris Tillman stinkfest. When the offense scores runs, the Orioles will be in those games. It’s just, in 2018, the offense isn’t scoring runs. Games like this will send them back towards having the worst batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage in the AL.
Pivetta ended up pitching seven innings. It took him 99 pitches to get there, allowing just two hits and a walk while notching 11 strikeouts. The Orioles struggles against starting pitching this season have been ongoing. Pivetta began the day with a 4.15 ERA, which is really not great for an NL pitcher. His brush against the Orioles offense got him down to 3.72. He will probably be hoping to see these guys again in July.
Old friend Tommy Hunter relieved Pivetta and did his best to go boom in favor of his former team. Hunter gave up two hits in three batters before being lifted in favor of Luis Garcia. At this point, the tying run was at the plate in the form of Trey Mancini with just one out in the inning. Mancini drew a walk, loading the bases with the tying run on base and the go-ahead run at the plate and just one out.
What’s more, the Orioles were in a good situation, theoretically, with their #2 and #3 batters due up to capitalize on this opportunity. Or so you could have hoped. Jones flew out, but not deep enough to score the slow-footed Pedro Alvarez from third base. Needing a two-out base hit from Manny Machado to score some runs, they instead got a harmless fielder’s choice grounder to end the inning. Machado was one of several hitless Orioles on the day.
The O’s are now 13-29, with only the woeful White Sox keeping them from the worst record in MLB. They are about to go face the Red Sox for four games, and unless there is a rainout somewhere, they will not have another off day until June 4. This could all resume being legendarily horrible.
The Boston series kicks off at 7:10 on Thursday night. Kevin Gausman and David Price are the currently scheduled starters.