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Sixth, seventh inning struggles send Orioles to ninth straight loss

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The Orioles were bad again and lost again. Hopefully you were able to go to bed before it ended.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Seattle Mariners Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 Orioles now have the worst record in all of MLB by a full five games. They are very, very bad at a whole lot of things about playing baseball games. One thing that they are particularly bad at doing is pitching in the sixth inning. On Thursday night in Seattle, this familiar brand of stinking surfaced yet again and the O’s went on to drop the opener to the Mariners, 5-2.

In the first inning of the game, after the Orioles took a 2-0 lead when Rio Ruiz delivered a single with the bases loaded, MASN’s Gary Thorne observed that the O’s have actually outscored the opposition in the first inning this season by a 50-45 margin. It’s not the beginning of games that is their biggest problem. It’s just every inning that comes after.

The sixth inning has been the terrible inning for the Orioles this season. When you think about the specific things that have plagued the O’s pitching staff, it makes sense. When the starter actually manages to get into the sixth inning, the third time through the order penalty will strike. If the starter immolates before the sixth inning, some crummy reliever will probably be pitching in the sixth. And so the Orioles began play on Thursday with 66 runs allowed in the sixth, while scoring just 26 runs themselves.

Thursday’s O’s starter, Dylan Bundy, had looked pretty good through five innings. Seattle batters had just three hits off of him. He held a 2-1 lead, with only catcher Omar Narvaez having a solo home run to put the Mariners on the board. His pitch count was not egregiously high. There was nothing to signal that Bundy was about to fall apart in the sixth inning - except, that is, for every other time he has done it this season.

After getting one out in the sixth, Bundy’s cursed inning struck. I should say, it is one of Bundy’s cursed innings, because he’s also tended to be bad in the fourth inning, though he wasn’t tonight. Domingo Santana tied the game with a solo shot, his 16th of the year. Narvaez’s earlier home run was his 11th, so if you want to feel better that at least it wasn’t non-power hitters teeing off on the Orioles tonight... well, honestly, that would be silly if you want to feel better for that reason, I’ve got to tell you.

Bundy followed up the solo home run by allowing three straight singles, the third of which scored Seattle’s go-ahead run. Finally, manager Brandon Hyde had enough of waiting for Bundy to get out of the inning. As Bundy returned to the dugout, he threw his glove at the bench and swept his hand across the back of the bench to scatter some papers in a Mike Wright-lite display of frustration.

Things did not get better for Bundy’s ERA from there. Hyde summoned fresh call-up Evan Phillips, back with the Orioles for the fifth time this season. Sandwiched between a pair of strikeouts, Phillips gave up an RBI single to Mariners left fielder Mac Williamson.

Bundy has now pitched into the sixth inning in 10 of his 15 starts this season. He has gotten 5.2 innings worth of outs while in the sixth, and in that time has allowed ten runs (nine earned). Entering today’s game, batters had a .379/.438/.655 line against Bundy in the inning. It is unreal. The team has now given up 69 sixth inning runs. This is not nice.

The Orioles pitching staff being what it is, these could not be the final runs they allowed in the game. Continuing on into the seventh, Phillips failed to quickly break to first and was late to the bag on a Mallex Smith infield single. He walked the next man, J.P. Crawford. Phillips has now walked 15 batters in 17.1 innings.

With some lefties coming up, Hyde called on one of his own lefties, Paul Fry, to get through the inning. It’s been a bad June for Fry, with ten runs (seven earned) allowed in 6.2 innings over eight games heading into tonight. Fry walked Narvaez to load the bases and then walked Kyle Seager to force in a run and set the final 5-2 score. These are both lefty batters. The run was charged to Phillips.

The Orioles offense scored no runs after the first inning. From the fourth inning onward, they picked up just one hit, a seventh inning single by Richie Martin that was immediately erased when Jonathan Villar grounded into a double play. They had four hits total. It’s hard to win a game like that no matter how well your pitching staff does, and it’s not like the O’s staff can ever be counted on to pitch well.

To give it that extra 2019 Orioles touch, this tepid offensive performance was turned in against Mariners guy-after-the-opener Wade LeBlanc, who entered the game having posted a 6.20 ERA for the season and left after 6.1 scoreless innings with a 5.44 ERA. He has been bad, and still the Orioles batters were bad against him.

It did not help that they were without Trey Mancini, who’s still day-to-day after being hit in the elbow in Wednesday’s game. At one point, the MASN cameras focused on Mancini in the dugout and Thorne pointed out the swelling in Mancini’s elbow was still so severe a day that it made his left hand puff up, too. It would surprise me if Mancini is able to play tomorrow.

For the Mariners, this win was their second in a row, snapping their streak of 33 games played without consecutive victories. As it happens, the only team with an active streak longer than that is the Orioles, who have now gone 40 games without consecutive victories. Even having expected this team to be bad, it is unbelievable how bad they are.

Things are unlikely to go much better tomorrow, when the O’s will be forced to deploy a bullpen game. This is necessitated by John Means hitting the injured list on Thursday with a left shoulder strain that they hope will only require the 10-day minimum stay. The Mariners counter with Mike Leake in the 10:10 Friday contest. Perhaps the Orioles can stop their skid before it reaches ten games, but probably not.