The idea of the Orioles rebuilding project remains exciting. Some day, things will be better than they are right now, with exciting players doing exciting things. The reality is that the right now often stinks, resulting in games where pitchers who have no business facing MLB hitters are asked to try to get them out because the last front office regime failed at acquiring good players and the new one doesn’t yet care all that much if the MLB team is bad.
Friday’s game, where the Orioles lost to the Angels by a 8-3 score, was one of those games. The starting pitcher, Dan Straily, was bad. The guy who relieved him after he failed to complete the fifth inning, Evan Phillips, was worse.
The result was a game that 14,495 people (minus however many Angels fans who were happy and kids who got free tickets) made the poor decision to pay to attend, and many others chose to spend part of their Friday night watching on television or listening to on the radio. The money will not be refunded. The time cannot be refunded.
Straily has proven to be such a poor starting pitching signing that you could believe it was actually Dan Duquette who signed him to pitch for the Orioles. In six tries before today he had only put together one outing that could be considered to be anything other than horrible. As he was cut by the Marlins almost at the very end of spring training, he has no “didn’t get a full spring training” excuse for these outings. He is just... not good enough to get AL batters out.
The specifics almost do not matter. The game certainly does not. Straily surrendered six runs in just 4.1 innings, allowing five hits and two walks in the process. If you want to be fair to Straily, when he actually left the game, he had only allowed four runs, but Phillips completely failed at keeping the inherited runners from crossing the plate.
This start is the kind of thing where we must evoke the Matusz Test, a test that I named after the ever-escalating ERA of 2011 Brian Matusz. If you start a game with a high ERA and you make that ERA go down, even if you have a bad outing, you pass the test. If you cannot lower your already-high ERA, you fail the test. Straily had a 7.43 ERA when today began. He now has an 8.23 ERA. He failed the Matusz Test. He would have failed even if Phillips stranded the two inherited runners.
It was at Phillips’s feet that the game turned into a laugher. In addition to allowing the two runners he inherited to score, Phillips gave up two more runs across a 1.2 inning outing. There is nothing good to be said about two runs on four hits and a walk in 1.2 innings of relief. It would be a good story if the Salisbury-born Phillips was a success for the Orioles. That’s not the story we are getting.
If you can believe it, the Orioles actually led this game at one time. The O’s struck first when Trey Mancini took Angels starter Trevor Cahill deep in the first inning, a bomb out onto the patches of sod in front of the batter’s eye in center field. The solo homer, the seventh of the year for Mancini, temporarily gave the O’s a 1-0 lead.
As feels typical for recent-vintage Orioles teams, they gave up the lead almost immediately. The first batter Straily faced after being given the lead, Andrelton Simmons, led off the second inning with a single. He eventually scored on a Tommy La Stella triple to center field that the current O’s center fielder, Stevie Wilkerson, made the ill-advised attempt to dive to try to catch. The runner was going to score anyway, but it looked silly.
In the third inning, the Angels got to Straily again. There’s no point in getting mad about Mike Trout hitting a two-run homer off of Straily. That’s what is supposed to happen. In the fifth, it was a Trout run-scoring double that chased Straily from the game. Three straight hits allowed by Phillips led to another chunk of Angels offense.
While all of this was going on, the Orioles offense was largely pathetic against Cahill. An impressive fact about Cahill is that, going into tonight, he had allowed more home runs than any other pitcher in MLB. No, it’s true. It’s not an Orioles pitcher who has given up the most dingers so far this year.
Cahill had a 6.95 ERA at the start of today. He has been bad. While he did give up the solo shot to Mancini to extend his lead in home runs allowed, that was one of only four hits he allowed, and he didn’t issue any walks in a six inning start that could have gone on longer if it wasn’t for the rain delay of an hour and 49 minutes. He passed the Matusz Test handily and now has a 6.35 ERA.
Across the whole game, the Orioles had just five hits. It’s hard to win a game like that. It is not much of a surprise when a lineup where Rio Ruiz is the cleanup hitter might have trouble generating offense. The pitchers are not the only reason that this team is now 13-25.
Chris Davis had two hits in the game, including his fourth home run of the season. He’s now batting .193 for the season. The Mendoza line is in sight. As ESPN’s Eddie Matz notes, Davis is working on almost a month of exceptional performance at the plate:
Since April 13th (the day he snapped his hitless streak), Chris Davis has a .948 OPS.— Eddie Matz (@ESPNeddiematz) May 11, 2019
This number has gone up a tad since it was tweeted because Davis walked in the ninth inning.
Other things that count as good news: Miguel Castro had a scoreless effort over the game’s final three innings, his sixth consecutive outing without giving up a run. Also, Trout’s home run was the only one allowed by O’s pitchers in the game. The 81 home runs they’ve now allowed is not a piece of good news, but at least they’re now on pace to allow “only” 345 home runs for the season. The record of 258 home runs allowed is currently held by the 2016 Reds.
The Orioles have a chance to even up the series in Saturday’s scheduled 4:05 game. Dylan Bundy and Matt Harvey are expected to be the starting pitchers. Hopefully it doesn’t rain any more on everyone who’s there to watch A League Of Their Own after the game.