The Orioles have now played 115 games this season and, with another loss on Thursday night, they have lost 80 of those games. It is likely they will find some more ways to lose before the season is over. In a 5-4 loss to the Rays, they took a late lead in the seventh inning and then blew that lead in the same inning and went on to lose.
An unpleasant truth in these early days of the Orioles rebuilding project is that we are going to watch a number of players get opportunities while the O’s are sorting out who’s a keeper and many of those players will fail. Some will be players the Orioles drafted and tried to develop and others will be parts of the big trades they made in July.
I mention this because the immediate goat in Thursday’s loss is reliever Cody Carroll, who faced six batters in the seventh inning, allowed four of them to reach base, and gave up two runs in the process. Those runs proved to be the decisive ones in the game, with the O’s trailing for good after he gave them up.
Carroll, who the O’s acquired from the Yankees in the Zach Britton trade, was a minor league strikeout machine who also maybe walked too many guys while being old for every level he pitched. With few better options, the O’s are testing him to see what he’s got. He failed on Thursday night, which doesn’t mean he’s a failure forever. It just means he didn’t have it tonight.
At one point in the game, the Orioles actually had a lead. They were able to jump on Rays “opener” Hunter Wood in the second inning to pick up three runs on four hits. Joey Rickard, playing center field while Adam Jones kept his legs off the Tropicana Field carpet, drove in two runs with a triple and Austin Wynns drove in another to hand a 3-0 lead to O’s starter David Hess.
Hess is another one of the players who is going to be tested in the O’s rebuilding project. Maybe the former fifth round pick will be able to cobble together a big league arsenal and find some success in the long run. Maybe it will turn out that the fact that the O’s have sent out Hess for eleven starts is an indictment of the lack of quality depth that they have been able to acquire and develop.
Not that Hess was awful in this game. We have seen worse from many starting pitchers in recent years. The Rays touched him up for a run in the third inning, a run in the fourth inning, and a run in the sixth to tie the game back up. The maligned Orioles defense actually came through to get an out at the plate in the third inning to keep that rally from doing more damage.
Hess was yanked with two men on base and lefty batter Kevin Kiermaier due up, one out short of notching a quality start.
Giving up three runs on four hits and three walks in 5.2 innings is not the greatest game. Sometimes it will be good enough. In Thursday’s game, it was enough to make sure Hess was neither the winner nor the loser. He lowered his MLB ERA to 6.25 in the process. Hess’s big league action to date has produced 37 strikeouts in 59 innings. This is not a number that augurs long-term success.
After allowing the game to be tied back up in the bottom of the sixth, the O’s did not waste any time getting back on top. Rays long reliever/second “starter”/whatever Yonny Chirinos, in the game since the third inning, left a hanging slider in the happy zone of Renato Núñez. The O’s third baseman did not miss, blasting the pitch 425 feet onto tarped over seats to give the O’s a short-lived 4-3 lead.
Although the O’s out-hit the Rays, 8-6, they did not have a ton of scoring opportunities. There were only three at-bats with runners in scoring position in the game, and the O’s went 2-3, plating three of their four runs in the process. The O’s batters drew just one walk. Mark Trumbo extended his hitting streak to eleven games, a third inning single with two outs that had no material impact on the final score of the game.
The nails-on-a-chalkboard seventh inning from Carroll began when he allowed Rays shortstop Willy Adames on base with a single. Carroll retired the 8-9 Rays batters, as one should do, before his command fled him and he issued walks to Mallex Smith and Matt Duffy to load the bases. All he had to do was throw strikes! From up above, the narrator voice: “He did not throw strikes.”
Once the bases were loaded, Carroll finally did throw a strike to Rays left fielder Jake Bauers. After the two straight walks that loaded the bases, he jumped on the first pitch for a single that scored two runs. The 2018 Orioles tragic strikes again.
The Orioles are two losses away from sealing a losing season with a four game Red Sox series awaiting this weekend. Oh yeah, and if they lose any one of the games this weekend, they’re officially eliminated from the AL East title. This is not a surprise to anyone who has watched them play this season, yet it’s still amazing that it’s August 9 and these things are true.
The Royals were idle on Thursday night, so the O’s now have the worst record in MLB all to themselves by a half game. The O’s are on pace to win just 49 games. At least they didn’t commit any errors in this one.
That Red Sox series opens up on Friday night at the standard civilized baseball time of 7:05. Nathan Eovaldi and Dylan Bundy are the scheduled starting pitchers in the opener. If Cedric Mullins recovers from his stomach virus in time, we might just see him, too.