The 2018 Orioles reached a new peak of efficiency on Friday night as they lost their latest game to the Twins, 6-2. It took all of one pitch for the universe to signal that, yes, it was going to be THAT kind of game. This is, seemingly, the only kind of game they play this season, but it usually takes a little bit longer to realize it.
What happened on the first pitch of the game is this: Tim Beckham swung at a Lance Lynn pitch and drove it to the deepest part of the ballpark in Minnesota. The ball was going to go over the fence. However, the Twins employ the radical strategy of having competent defenders in the outfield, and so Twins center fielder Jake Cave tracked the ball, jumped at the fence, and made the catch.
The Orioles were not guaranteed to lose the game after this happened, of course. That would be a ridiculous thing to say or believe. It was only one out out of 27. But also, the loss was guaranteed from that moment, because good things do not happen to the 2018 Orioles, and when you get reminded of that after one pitch, that’s that.
Things went downhill quickly once the Orioles made three outs and turned around to start pitching and playing defense. Dylan Bundy had the start after being activated from the disabled list prior to the game. Bundy landed on the DL by spraining his ankle running the bases in Atlanta on June 23 and had not pitched since.
One constant about Bundy this season is that he has been better on regular rest, with a 1.88 ERA on four days rest and a 7.88 ERA on five days rest. This is a small sample size but a striking one. Did Bundy do any rehab outings to get himself back on four days rest before this start? No, he did not.
Perhaps he should have. The Twins jumped all over Bundy immediately and the Orioles trailed 2-0 after three batters, with no outs having been recorded. Bundy’s defense didn’t help him out much, with Tim Beckham making an error on a catch at third base to allow the second run to score. Bundy also didn’t help himself out much by repeatedly missing his spots.
Bundy faced the minimum three batters in each of the next two innings and retired the first batter he saw in the fourth inning. Lest anyone think he had settled into a groove, though, Jorge Polanco reached on a bunt single, the kind of bunt single everyone wants Chris Davis to try to pull off even though he never does.
With that man on base, Max Kepler proved his laws of planetary motion by crushing a baseball into outer space. That goes in the scorebook as a home run. The ball actually landed in the seats in right field and I’m using dramatic license, just so you know. A fact beyond dispute is that the Orioles trailed 5-0 after this, and Bundy gave up another single, a walk, and a run-scoring single. This was enough. He was yanked from the game.
Maybe Bundy was rusty. Maybe his ankle still hurts. If either of these are the case, the Orioles are dopes for making him pitch tonight. Maybe he just had a bad game. Those can happen even to good pitchers who are totally healthy. Whichever is the case, Bundy gave up six runs, five earned, on nine hits and a walk in just 3.1 innings pitched in the game. His ERA’s tentative dip below 4.00 is over.
Because it’s 2018 and things must go wrong in the most painful way possible, the Orioles turned in their latest game scoring two or fewer runs by facing Lance Lynn, a starting pitcher who they might have signed instead this past offseason. Not that Lynn has been any good this year, entering the game with a 5.49 ERA. So of course he held the Orioles offense to a run on six hits in six innings tonight.
The O’s bats collected a respectable 11 hits in the game, as many as the winning Twins did. The difference for the O’s was that all 11 of their hits were singles, and they just couldn’t get the big hit.
Promising chances were squandered in the sixth and seventh innings, first when Jonathan Schoop squashed a rally by grounding into a double play and then by Tim Beckham running into an out by a mile at home plate. You don’t get to be 24-63 by accident. You have to be very bad in just about every facet of the game. That’s the Orioles for you. That’s why they are now on pace to win just 45 games, if you round up.
Some meaningless bright spots: Rookie Paul Fry escaped the jam he inherited from Bundy in the fourth inning, striking out four of the seven batters he faced. That keeps his big league ERA at 0.00. Mike Wright Jr. added 1.1 scoreless innings, dropping his ERA below 5. Even the struggling Mychal Givens pitched a scoreless inning without allowing a baserunner.
With this loss, the Orioles are now 35 games out of first place and 17 games out of fourth place. They are a crummy baseball team. A belief that “things have to get better” isn’t enough for them to actually get better. Something must change and yet, by and large, nothing has changed. No one has been fired and few players have seen their roles reduced. This ship has long since dashed against the rocks and sunk. Rescue is not coming. It is lost with all hands.
The series continues on Saturday afternoon at 2:10pm. The Orioles will try their best to avoid a fifth consecutive loss. Their best probably isn’t good enough. Kevin Gausman and Kyle Gibson are the scheduled starting pitchers. The last time the Orioles saw Gibson, they almost got no-hit.