It was just over a week ago that I was here, recapping an Andrew Cashner-Ivan Nova matchup, but after the Orioles’ recent stretch, those feel like halcyon days. That game, if you remember, was a 9-1 blowout for the Orioles in which four batters went deep and Cashner pitched seven innings, looking every inch the staff ace.
Today’s Cashner-Nova matchup was, shall we say, a little rockier. The O’s starter never seemed to be on the same page with his catcher, the rookie Austin Wynns, and the defense sputtered at several critical moments (they racked up five errors and four unearned runs in today’s doubleheader). Oh yeah, also, the bullpen blew another game.
Over three and two-thirds innings, Cashner commanded a lively fastball, a biting changeup, and a big looping curveball he was dropping in for strikes. But he ran his pitch count way up, and with the O’s leading 4-2 in the fourth, he ran out of juice. After a drive by White Sox centerfielder Adam Engel sailed past a diving Joey Rickard for a two-out triple, Cashner walked Yoan Moncada. At the time, this looked plausibly like a defensive move against a hot hitter, but the same couldn’t be said when Cashner followed that up by walking rookie Nicky Delmonico to load the bases for All-Star first baseman José Abreu.
Abreu smacked a single up the middle, and by the time the Rickard-Jonathan Villar team relayed the ball home, three runs were in and the White Sox led 5-4. (I think we’re playing too deep.) Cashner ended the inning, and his night, with a strikeout, giving him a final line of 4 IP, 6 H, 5 R (4 earned), and 8 SO with 99 pitches thrown—not terrible, but quite a comedown from last week.
Although the Orioles’ RISP problems continued (they left eight men on in this game), they managed to stake Cashner out a couple of early leads. They led 1-0 after the first when Villar—who had a horrible day with the glove but a good one at the plate—led off with a single, stole second, and somehow managed to score on a Dwight Smith, Jr. bloop to the Bermuda Triangle. Villar got an incredible jump on the ball, taking off from second without a second look, even though there was just one out.
The White Sox got the run back in the second on a bewildering mental lapse by Austin Wynns. With Yolmer Sanchez on first with two outs, Wynns fired a dropped third strike to … well, nobody at second base, allowing the runner to make it to third as the ball skipped into center. A grounder off the mound brought Sanchez home to make it 1-1. Then in the third, Cashner got Delmonico hacking on a sharp curveball before Abreu tagged an inside fastball for a home run. 2-1 White Sox.
The O’s hit paydirt in the fourth. Davis led off the inning with a long looping single into the right-field corner. Take that, shift! Anthony Santander, brought up as the 26th man for the doubleheader, walked on four pitches. A left-hitting Stevie Wilkerson crushed a low-and-inside cutter into right field, dropping a trail of F-bombs as he high-fived his way through the dugout. 4-2 Orioles.
After Cashner’s disastrous fourth left them down 5-4, the O’s wasted a leadoff double and a walk in the fifth. What looked like a three-run home run off of the bat of Renato Núñez ended up a double play as left fielder Delmonico caught the ball on the warning track and doubled up DSJ trying to tag from first. A Chris Davis flyout for out No. 3 would have been a game-tying sac fly minus the baserunning error.
The O’s did tie things up in the sixth when Anthony Santander hit a no-doubt solo shot to right. Nice debut! They got a go-ahead run in a hot mess of a seventh inning when, with men on first and second, one out, Davis hit a clunker that looked like a for-sure double play. DSJ saved the day, so to speak, by taking out 2B Sánchez with a slide that Gary Thorne clearly thought was illegal, and Ruiz scored in what went down as a Davis fielder’s choice. 6-5 Orioles.
Hyde brought on Evan Phillips to guard the one-run lead in the eighth. Phillips pitched a clean eighth, but got into hot water in the ninth, walking leadoff hitter Leury Garcia and giving up a bunt single to put runners at first and second with no outs. Hyde pulled Phillips for Paul Fry, who gave up a sac bunt that allowed both runners to advance. Hyde then axed Fry for Miguel Castro, and in short, I was afraid.
Castro struck out José Rondón on a 98 mph down-and-away sinker. A free pass to José Abreu brought up Yonder Alonso with two outs, bases loaded. Castro threw what was, to be fair, a pretty damn good 99-MPH sinker on the corner, but Alonso poked it into left field. Done. Ballgame. I don’t know why, with Castro’s stuff, he remains so hittable, but the results speak for themselves. With the two baserunners allowed, Phillips took the loss.
The ninth-inning collapse spoiled what was a heroic effort by Gabriel Ynoa, who faced the minimum number of batters over three innings. Mowing through the lineup in the sixth and seventh, Ynoa prompted Jim Palmer to observe, “He’s pitching efficiently enough that he must think the plane’s going to leave without him.”
Unfortunately, the sooner the O’s fly off and leave this Midwest road trip behind, the better.