In the wee hours of the morning on Thursday, the 2018 Orioles lost their 99th game of the season. The dark years of the O’s from 1998-2011 never saw them lose more than 98. It is September 6 with more than three full weeks of this season left and the O’s are worse. Bad starting pitching and comically untimely hitting did them in once again as they dropped the finale of their series against the Mariners, 5-2.
Even as we find ourselves in the last month of the season, it still seems like the Orioles maintain the capability to find new ways to lose every night. Wednesday’s late night loss saw them leave ten men on base while going 0-14 in chances with runners in scoring position across the whole game. Eight different Orioles had a piece of that 0-14, with third baseman Renato Núñez coming out the worst with an 0-3 with RISP on the night.
For a team that wins more often than it loses, you would just have to shrug and say, “Stuff happens” in response to something like that. Some nights it’s not your night. The thing about the 2018 Orioles is that this stuff happens almost every night, which is why they’ve lost more than 70% of their games and have already guaranteed a last place finish with 22 games still to play.
As for this contest, the O’s actually held a 2-1 lead at one point thanks to the Mariners committing three errors in the same inning, looking a whole lot like the Orioles in the process. It’s almost like a team where there’s actual fighting in the clubhouse has its share of problems, too. It’s just easier to overcome those problems in a series where they’re facing baseball’s worst team.
Immediately after the Orioles took the lead in the fifth inning, starting pitcher Andrew Cashner gave the lead back. Former Oriole Nelson Cruz, in the fourth year of the four year contract that the O’s did not want to give him because they were concerned that he would be hurt or bad, destroyed a baseball for a solo home run to tie the game. This was Cruz’s 34th home run of the season; he’s now batting .267/.353/.538. Oops.
There went the lead. Seattle’s left fielder, Denard Span, quickly put the O’s back in the hole by going back-to-back with Cruz. This was the 11th home run of the season for Span and just like that, the O’s trailed. Despite it only being the fifth inning, Cashner received the hook from Buck Showalter at this point.
The hook was no surprise. Cashner labored through his outing tonight, having already thrown 100 pitches despite lasting only 4.2 innings. He allowed three runs on seven hits and two walks and did not manage to strike out a batter.
During the game, MASN helpfully shared the stat that Cashner is in the bottom five of swing-and-miss percentage for starting pitchers. If you don’t have that put-away pitch, the pitch count will elevate. The trend line of Cashner’s career left no surprise about what would happen here in Baltimore. The best that might be said of the O’s front office is that they knew this and had to cross their fingers and hope for the best with this signing due to monetary constraints. And that’s still not very good.
Again in true 2018 fashion, the soft underbelly of the bullpen failed to stop the bleeding. Mike Wright Jr. gave up a run in the seventh inning, as did why-is-this-guy-here reliever Sean Gilmartin. What was particularly impressive/horrible about Gilmartin’s outing is that he, a lefty, was called upon to face two lefty batters and he retired neither. When the LOOGY is the “no out guy” instead, that’s no fun for anyone except the other team.
These seventh inning insurance runs for the Mariners did not particularly matter. The O’s did not get another runner on base after Adam Jones singled with one out in the top of the seventh. This included going down in order in the ninth inning against Mariners closer Edwin Diaz, who now has saved 53 of the 78 Seattle wins this year.
Jones was 3-4 in the game. Not getting any hits with RISP despite your cleanup hitter going 3-4 is definitely one of those 2018 Orioles things. There are many such things and they are regularly on display. Another 2018 O’s thing tonight is that no Orioles batter took a walk. You don’t get the worst on-base percentage in the American League by accident. The O’s have been the only team below a .300 OBP for quite some time.
The merciful thing about this is that there is no game on Thursday. The Orioles are off as they travel to Tampa, where they will face the resurgent Rays starting on Friday night as they try to avoid losing for the 100th time this season.