The 2018 Orioles are a Mad Libs baseball team. Each game is played with a near certainty that they will lose. The only thing that must be done is fill in the blanks with the appropriate nouns and verbs to describe a particular loss. They did not declare independence from bad baseball on the Fourth of July. They just lost to the Phillies again, 4-1.
Continuing their ongoing commitment to exploring every possible way to lose a baseball game, the O’s were beaten on Wednesday afternoon despite giving up just three hits. It is hard to lose a game when you give up only three hits. These Orioles are up to that task. They found a way to do it, as they have found a way to lose 60 times before today and may yet find a way to lose 60 more times after today.
There were a few architects of the loss. The first Oriole sitting down on the dunk tank seat for your catharsis is Chris Davis. It is a challenge to describe just how atrocious Davis has been this season because he has managed to be putrid in a way that has been seldom, if ever, seen in MLB.
Most often, this is in reference to Davis’s performance at the plate, and indeed, although he did get a hit on Independence Day, he also struck out three times to pull himself within one of Cal Ripken Jr. for the all-time Orioles strikeout lead. He batted fifth despite what’s now a .154/.229/.261 batting line on the season, complaining about which is barely even worth it when the Orioles are 24-61 but is still vexing when I actually think about it.
Yet a position player can torpedo his team with more than just his bat. He can do bad things with his glove, too.
O’s starter Yefry Ramirez entered the fifth inning without having allowed a hit to the Phillies up to that point. The Orioles even held a 1-0 lead after Adam Jones scored Tim Beckham from first base with a double in the third inning. That changed in a hurry, though. After getting one out, Ramirez issued a walk to Nick Williams and then a double to struggling rookie Scott Kingery.
Tough spot to be in for a guy pitching in his third ever MLB game. Ramirez got Phillies catcher Jorge Alfaro to ground softly towards first base. Davis took three steps to his left and had the ball slip under his glove into right field. Two runs scored on the play, one of which was unearned due to the Davis error. The ball was judged to have been enough to score Williams regardless.
This ended up as the only bump in the road for Ramirez. He pitched five innings, gave up just one hit and two walks, and had only one earned run against him with four strikeouts on only 65 pitches thrown. That’s pretty good, enough that he should get some more chances in the #5 spot in the rotation.
As it all turned out, this was enough for the Phillies to win. Though the O’s out-hit the Phils 7-3 in the game, they could not get a clutch hit to save their lives, going 0-8 in chances with runners in scoring position. Manny Machado, whose future Phillies potential by trade, free agency, or both struck the Philadelphia fans so much that they cheered him for the last two games, was 0-2 with RISP, as were Trey Mancini and Mark Trumbo.
The #5 starter before Ramirez, David Hess, entered in relief in the sixth inning. Things didn’t end up going much better for him in relief than they had been going as a starter. Hess walked Carlos Santana to lead off the seventh inning and then served up an All-American tater to Williams, putting the O’s in a 4-1 hole. Their pitchers issued three walks in the game and two of them came around to score.
Hess has now allowed 11 home runs in 49.2 big league innings. It’s not easy to be an MLB pitcher. The O’s might as well see if he has some future value as they continue stumbling through the season, but there will be lumps when it doesn’t work out. Not that it ended up mattering all that much in this game, since they only scored one run.
The lack of run output was less embarrassing here than it has been at times. That’s because the O’s were going up against Phillies starter Aaron Nola, who may not be a household name but who has broken out in a big way so far in 2018. Nola came into the game with a 2.48 ERA over seven starts, with 107 strikeouts against just 31 walks in 109 innings.
Nola is good. The Orioles offense is not. Baseball can often surprise, but more often than that what happens is exactly what you could expect ahead of time. Every time the O’s threatened Nola, he shut them down. Nola pitched seven innings. The O’s went hitless against 23-year-old reliever Victor Arano, who tossed the final two innings to pick up his first MLB save.
One slight positive for the O’s in this game is that Zach Britton pitched a scoreless eighth inning without allowing any baserunners. He’s going to need a few more outings like that before he might convince the scouts who are watching his every move that their teams might want to trade for him before July 31. Hopefully, for the sake of the O’s future, Britton is able to do that.
The O’s are off to Minnesota next to take on the Twins for a four game set beginning Thursday night at 8:10 Eastern. The Twins are also reeling lately, so maybe the O’s can actually win a game out there. Stranger things have happened.