There have been many historic moments in Orioles history where a lucky crowd got to see it and tens of thousands more tell fibs about having been there. Cal’s 2,131 game, the Doug DeCinces home run that launched Orioles Magic, Earl Weaver’s (first) last game, Eddie Murray hitting his 500th home run, and more. Those were good historic moments.
Not all history is good for the Orioles. In Thursday afternoon’s 8-5 loss to the Athletics, Orioles fans got more of the wrong kind of history. That includes the Orioles setting a new record for consecutive games allowing a home run to begin a season at 13, and Chris Davis adding a new futile feather to his cap of records by claiming and then extending the MLB record for number of consecutive hitless plate appearances.
Davis has now gone 61 plate appearances in a row with no hits. He did draw a walk today, if you want to give him some credit for that, and he managed to drive a pitch to the warning track early in the game. His streak of hitless at-bats sits at 0-53, including 0-32 to begin the 2019 season. According to The Sun’s Nathan Ruiz, this sets up the next record in Davis’s sights: 0-37, the streak of hitless ABs that Eugenio Velez had in the 2011 season with the Dodgers.
As bad as the ongoing Davis situation is, he is not the reason the Orioles lost Thursday’s game. The biggest culprit is surely starting pitcher Dylan Bundy.
In an uncharacteristic bit of optimism, I managed to convince myself before the season that if there was any one player who would surely thrive under the new Mike Elias pro-analytics regime, it would be Bundy. In retrospect, I don’t know why I believed this, but it seemed like a sound conclusion. Perhaps that positive transformation is still to come, but it hasn’t been seen through Bundy’s first three games.
Bundy famously allowed 41 home runs last season. He’s begun the 2019 season as if he’s on a mission to “beat” last year’s total, including today, when in a cool April day game in Baltimore, he managed to serve up four taters to Athletics batters. Four! It’s April 11! Imagining what will happen once the weather actually warms up leads to something too grotesque to contemplate.
Early in the game, the Orioles actually led. Left fielder Dwight Smith Jr. got on the home run board with his first blast of 2019 in the first inning, a solo shot to give the O’s a 1-0 advantage early on. This looked like it might even be a big boost as Bundy cruised through the first three innings without allowing a hit, striking out five Oakland batters.
In today’s baseball analysis, it’s generally accepted that the third time through the order is the time where a starting pitcher is truly in danger. Bundy decided not to wait until the third time, instead starting his meltdown just the second time through the order. After allowing a leadoff double to Marcus Semien in the fourth inning, Bundy hurled a meatball to Khris (with a K) Davis and saw that ball blasted over the fence in center field, 378 feet away. The A’s took a 2-1 lead and would never trail again.
K. Davis has hit 40+ home runs each of the last three seasons, so there’s no shame in giving up a home run to him, right? While that’s true, the fifth inning two-run shot by catcher Josh Phegley (career single season HR high: 9) is a bit harder to overlook. Leading off the sixth inning, K. Davis struck again, immediately followed by Kendrys Morales, and just like that, Bundy’s game was over after five-plus innings with six runs allowed on four home runs.
Commenter F. Shoes noted that K. Davis’s two home runs last night plus two home runs today gave him four home runs in less than 24 hours. C. Davis does not have four home runs since the beginning of last August.
The day began for Bundy with a 7.36 ERA. That’s high enough where we can start to apply the Matusz Test, named after the disastrous 2011 season of ever-escalating ERAs by another former #4 overall pick. Bundy’s six runs in five innings raised his ERA to 8.76. Matusz Test failure. Let’s hope he starts passing the test in subsequent starts.
Bundy’s exit meant that new Orioles reliever Josh Lucas came into the game. He was welcomed to Baltimore by Cedric Mullins booting a single to center field, a two-base error that immediately put a man on third base. Jurickson Profar drove in the run with a sacrifice fly to put the A’s up 7-1. It was an unearned run against Lucas, consolation for his career ERA but not so much the Orioles chances of winning the game.
The O’s did manage to fight back. In a four-run seventh inning, the O’s loaded the bases with no one out thanks to two walks and a single. The first two batters reaching chased A’s starter Aaron Brooks. After loading the bases by walking Davis, reliever J.B. Wendelken lost control of a curveball and hit Pedro Severino in the head with a pitch to score a run. The bases were still loaded with none out.
A wild pitch scored one run and moved up the runners, allowing a Mullins groundout to score another run. Smith added a double to plate the last of the earlier bases loaded runners, Severino, with the O’s having clawed the deficit back to 7-5. With two out, the tying run was at the plate. Jonathan Villar lined out to end the rally.
Just for fun, and possibly to lead to more records, Mychal Givens gave up a solo homer in the ninth inning to Semien, the fifth homer the O’s allowed in Thursday’s game. That gives them 38 home runs allowed in their first 13 games. It almost seems unreal.
Fresh call-up Tanner Scott also pitched in the game. His appearance made him the 20th pitcher the O’s have used this year. As Camden Chat commenter tflach2 noted, the division-winning 2014 Orioles used 20 pitchers for their whole season. Scott could not even complete an inning today, giving up two hits in three batters.
These Orioles were always supposed to lose a lot of games. It took a week into the season for us to start to see why, but now it’s on full display daily. It’s like even the MASN broadcasts can’t pretend any of this matters. The announcers keep chowing down on promotional food while game action is occurring, then talking while chewing to say how good it is. Today they were served, and ate on air, gyros.
Please, MASN, stop making, or letting, them eat on air. I’m embarrassed for you and a little disgusted by you.
The O’s are now 5-8. They’ve lost seven of the last eight games. The good news, such as it is, is that they’re heading to Boston for four games, where they’ll face the last place Red Sox. The bad news is that after getting to play these Orioles four times, the Red Sox might not be in last any more. David Hess and Eduardo Rodriguez are the scheduled starters for the 7:10pm Friday opener.