The Orioles had a fun first week of their season that allowed then to bring a 4-2 record back to their home opener on Thursday. Enjoy that fun week for as long as you can. The reality of why the Orioles are expected to be as bad as they are is still waiting to pounce, and pounce it did, sending the O’s to an 8-4 loss to the Yankees in the first Baltimore game of the season.
There is a tendency after a stupid loss to look around, point fingers at players, and imagine that if they were only gone, things would be better immediately. Thursday’s game was no different, providing a couple of quick scapegoats to answer why a game the Orioles were winning 4-1 turned into an 8-4 loss instead.
Let’s get Chris Davis out of the way so I don’t have to talk about him again. He was bad, is continuing to be bad, taking another 0-3 with three strikeouts today, and probably will continue to be bad.
Give Davis a man on third chance, as the Orioles did in the first inning, and he will blow it. Put a man on first ahead of him, as in the fourth and sixth innings, and he will blow it. Stretching back to last season, Davis has now gone 11 games hitless, leaving him just 45 games shy of a Reverse DiMaggio.
The loudest Davis-related cheer of the day from the Baltimore crowd came with the announcement that utility infielder Hanser Alberto would bat instead against lefty former Oriole Zack Britton, against whom Davis would likely be an auto-out.
The other person to point fingers at is Mike Wright. After Alex Cobb gave up a solo homer to Gary Sanchez to cut the Orioles lead to 4-2, the O’s called on Wright to face the middle of the Yankees lineup. This led to the following four batter sequence:
- Bird singled to right
- LeMahieu singled to center, Bird to third
- Torres homered to left (390 feet), Bird scored and LeMahieu scored
- Frazier singled to right center
This was the second home run of the game for Torres, who also came through with a solo shot off of Alex Cobb earlier in the game.
Wright’s job was to get someone, anyone out. He got no one out and blew the lead in the process. This is the grim reality of the Orioles rebuild. Guys who have no business facing MLB competition will be getting chances on the off chance that the Mike Elias regime can turn nothing into something. Most of the time, nothing will stay as nothing.
These put a damper on what might have otherwise been a fun game. The Orioles raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, starting with a Jonathan Villar leadoff home run. Three of the next four batters reached base to load the bases with one out. Hilarity ensued for Orioles fans, as Yankees starter James Paxton was deemed to have balked, advancing all runners. Paxton then threw a wild pitch to plate a third Orioles run. This would be a lot more fun if not for what came later.
Thursday’s game marked the 2019 regular season debut for Alex Cobb. The righty had been supposed to start the actual Opening Day before groin soreness set him back a week. Overall it was a good outing for Cobb, who held the Yankees to just five hits and a walk in 5.2 innings.
Unfortunately for Cobb and the Orioles, two of the four hits were solo home runs, including the one by Sanchez that chased Cobb from the game. Hopefully he can go deeper into the game the next time and keep showing signs of progress.
Should Cobb have stayed in? He was at 87 pitches, hardly an egregious number, though he was working his way through the Yankees lineup a third time. Caution was justified. Yanking Cobb for Wright, while not exactly on the level of “bring in Pedro Araujo to try to continue David Hess’s no-hitter,” is not going ton the Brandon Hyde highlight reel, even if he was probably right to not push Cobb in his first start of the season.
Perhaps it didn’t matter, because the Orioles used four relievers in the game and the only one who did not allow a run in the game was John Means. Relievers giving up runs was just something on the menu.
Seven games into the 2019 season, there is one other obvious problem presenting itself: The trio of Villar, Dwight Smith Jr., and Trey Mancini are hitting. If you want to be generous, you can include Joey Rickard in this number. The other players below them are not hitting.
This is all small sample size stuff, but every game is a small sample size in and of itself and every game counts. The O’s seem to have improved their defense. That comes at a cost to their offense, at least with the caliber of player they can acquire cheaply. Those who have demonstrated they can hit and field don’t end up on the waiver wire. Can Rio Ruiz hit? Can Jesus Sucre? Can Richie Martin?
More than worrying about winning any games this season, which Elias did tell us back at FanFest was him “not wanting to put undue emphasis on something that’s not strategically relevant,” what will consume the Elias front office is the baseball worthiness of these players. These projects will play out at the MLB level. Some of them will not work out, no matter how slick their defense is.
A Friday off day stands between the Orioles, Yankees, and the continuation of this series. On Saturday night at the standard civilized baseball time of 7:05, they will be back at it, with J.A. Happ and Dylan Bundy currently expected to pitch. With a win, the O’s would stay above .500.