So, uh...how we all feeling about this “rebuilding” thing?
I mean, blowing up the team was necessary, of course. The Orioles were going nowhere, except straight into the deepest pits of the baseball record books. They were utterly broken. So they committed to getting younger, to rebuilding from the ground up, and those were absolutely the right moves. The Orioles had to build for the future, to look forward to a day when things will get better.
But this was the kind of game that makes you think, “Wait...are things going to get better?” This 16-5 loss to the Mets was discouraging on many levels, from the Orioles’ supposed ace getting bludgeoned again, to the young pitchers being frighteningly unable to throw strikes, to the overall malaise that enveloped the entire team.
The most pressing concern is Dylan Bundy, who seems tragically primed to become the latest black mark on the Orioles’ much-maligned pitching development system.
It’s become a recurring theme over the years, almost an MLB-wide punchline, that promising young pitchers in the Orioles’ system always seem to crash and burn — or at least fail to realize their full potential. Jake Arrieta, of course, is the most prominent example, stalling out in Baltimore before unlocking his Cy Young self once unshackled from the Orioles’ organization. Brian Matusz, under the Birds’ tutelage, went from a polished, highly touted No. 4 overall pick to a spotty reliever to out of baseball in the span of eight years. Kevin Gausman never advanced beyond a league-average starter before he was traded away.
Is Bundy on his way to joining this group as a once heavily hyped stud who couldn’t get the most out of his gifted arm? His 2018 season has been a mess, rife with truly awful outings interspersed with the occasional gem. And while there could certainly be extenuating circumstances with Bundy’s struggles — most notably, his long history of arm troubles, and most recently, an ankle injury he suffered in Atlanta in June — the bottom line is that something just ain’t right.
Bundy was scorched by the Mets tonight, coughing up seven runs and 11 hits in 5.1 innings. If there’s one good thing that could be said about Bundy’s outing, it’s that he threw strikes; 63 of his 86 pitches were in the strike zone, and he had no walks. That’s about where the good news ends. Bundy was fooling nobody as pitch after pitch was hit hard.
Bundy got a bit unlucky in a two-run first inning that included a Jeff McNeil soft single to left on a perfectly executed hit-and-run, and a Todd Frazier bloop RBI single into the Bermuda triangle in short right field. By the fourth inning, though, the Mets were squaring him up. Austin Jackson led off with a triple to right field and was singled home by Jose Bautista. Later, Jose Reyes and Brandon Nimmo laced almost identical liners into the right-field corner — the former for a triple, the latter a double — to plate another run.
Todd Frazier homered in the fifth before Bundy put two more runners aboard in the sixth on a hit batsman and a double, bringing an end to his night. Both runs ended up scoring, the sixth and seventh of the night, inflating Bundy’s season ERA to 4.99.
For a rebuilding Orioles club that’s hoping Bundy can be a rotation anchor to build around for the next few years, well, this isn’t an ideal turn of events.
Another less-than-encouraging sign tonight was the cringeworthy performances across the board by a slew of young Orioles pitchers.
First up was homegrown lefty Tanner Scott, who faced four batters and retired only one of them, giving up a two-run triple, two walks, and a wild pitch before getting pulled.
Faring even worse was righty Evan Phillips, one of the hurlers acquired from the Braves in the Gausman trade. Phillips didn’t retire any of the four batters he faced. His night played out like this: two-run double, walk, walk, grand slam, hit the showers. Thanks for stopping by, Evan. His ERA in four games with the Orioles is now 21.60. He’s walked six batters in 3.1 innings.
In a cruel twist of fate, Mets outfielder Phillip Evans is on the disabled list, which robbed us of the historic opportunity to witness an Evan Phillips vs. Phillip Evans showdown. I’m legitimately bummed about this.
Anyway, Buck Showalter had to turn to his fourth pitcher of the inning, ex-Met Sean Gilmartin, who finally finished the sixth after the Mets sent 12 batters to the plate and scored nine runs. At that point it was a 14-1 game.
For good measure, the Mets added two runs in the ninth off Mike Wright, another once-intriguing O’s pitching prospect who hasn’t translated his strong arm into effective results. Wright, after giving up a two-run homer to Wilmer Flores, has a 5.17 ERA. The future of the Orioles’ pitching staff is not looking super promising at this exact moment, folks.
When your team gives you double-digit run support, you’re usually going to win. Such was the case for Mets starter Zack Wheeler, who barely needed the help. He held the O’s to one run in five innings, though the Birds’ offense worked him hard, forcing him to throw 56 pitches in the first two frames.
Long after the game was decided, the O’s tacked on some runs against the Mets’ bullpen, most notably on a Jonathan Villar two-run homer in the eighth. So congratulations are in order if you have Villar on your fantasy team. For the real-world Orioles, though, it was too late to matter.
The game ended by a 16-5 score, sending the Orioles to their 85th loss.
Things will, one day, get better.