If you decided to spend your Wednesday evening the way countless fair-weather fans who have stopped tuning in for Orioles games this season spent it, well, I can hardly blame you.
The Orioles racked up seven hits, left a bunch of men aboard, and gave up three solo home runs. The two runs they did score, in the top of the eighth, felt less to their credit than to the deep demerit of the Toronto bullpen. It was a throughly blah affair.
How blah, you ask? Probably the most interesting thing I learned today was that, with his tenth loss on the season, Gabriel Ynoa joins David Hess as the first pair of teammates with one win and double-digit losses since two unfortunates from the 1916 Philadelphia A’s. Credit that one to MLB.com’s Joe Trezza, by way of our stalwart announcer, Gary Thorne. (Upon hearing this factoid, Mike Bordick replied: “Well that’s a little disheartening. Thanks a lot, Gary.” I think suffering breeds humor, actually.)
Gabriel Ynoa is an improved pitcher. His ERA has gone down from 6.22 in his first two months of 2019 to 3.74 this month, and his walks are down by a lot, too. But Ynoa is still giving up 2.3 home runs per nine innings. David Hess has 3.2. Although they don’t have the innings to qualify for the MLB “leaderboard,” that HR/9 rate would put the pair at 1 and 2, an honor I’m sure they’d be only too glad to refuse.
Ynoa “bested” that rate tonight by allowing two long balls in just four innings. He wasn’t terrible by any means, only allowing two other hits total, but when Ynoa misses with a slow, loopy changeup right down the heart of the plate, you can bet it gets taken into the stands.
It started on the second pitch of the game, when Billy McKinney, a former Yankees farmhand and August call-up, took Ynoa deep on a hanging something [consults MLB Gamecast]—that’d be a changeup—that came in at 89 mph and right over the plate.
Ynoa got a pair of strikeouts in the second, and, after two walks in the third, flipped in a gutsy slider to Vlad Guerrero Jr. and got the big youngster swinging over it.
In the fourth, however, Ynoa hung an inside slider to lefty Rowdy Tellez, and Tellez made him pay the piper. He escaped the inning with two strikeouts, finishing with five in four innings which, again, is fine when you’re not allowing home runs at a reckless pace.
And when your team is hitting. The Orioles, for their part, were persistently flummoxed by tall Toronto righty Jacob Waguespack’s humpbacked cutter, and they wasted chances all day. They erased leadoff hitters with double plays: one in the first by Trey Mancini, a second in the second by Rio Ruiz.
More futility followed. Of note: Austin Wynns, another call-up making the most of his MLB playing time, singled in the third inning, and Jonathan Villar got his 39th stolen base in the sixth, looking like he barely had to try for it. But both of them were stranded out there.
Ynoa didn’t offer much length today, and after 83 pitches, he was replaced in the fifth by the lefty Paul Fry, whose ERA currently sits at 5.30. Things went fine for Fry in the fifth, but in the sixth, Rowdy Tellez struck again, on another hanging slider. (Don’t hang sliders to Rowdy Tellez.) It was 3-0 Blue Jays, and the Orioles had done zilch at the plate.
The Orioles’ offensive slumber continued into the seventh, even after the dominant Waguespack was pulled for Jason Adam, a righty with a short-arm delivery, a super loopy curveball, and a rising fastball. Rio Ruiz hit a dribbler he was lucky to get on base on, and Davis—who’s looking a little livelier with the bat—walked, but a couple of strikeouts and an Austin Wynns flyout silenced that rally.
The eighth got mildly interesting. In for Toronto, Jordan Romano got Villar to strike out before Hays took a high fastball the opposite way for a single. Mancini worked a walk. DSJ, one-time RISP specialist and former Blue Jay, timed up a slider and poked it through for a bases-loading single (Hays was held at third). With the sacks full and one out, Rio Ruiz produced a second dribbler of his own, one that was fortunately slow enough to avoid the double play and score Hays to break up the shutout. Next up, Hanser Alberto got pinged on the elbow to reload the bases with two outs. Up came DJ Stewart, with the chance to do damage. No need! Paul Folkemer favorite Wilmer Font came in out of the Toronto bullpen and walked in a run on four pitches. None was even close. But this inning, too, ended with a sad trumpet as Chris Davis came up, worked the count to 3-2, and then flew out to leave the bases loaded.
Toronto closer Ken Giles pitched a shutdown ninth, striking out Villar, Núñez and Hays. And that was that.
Tonight we also learned that, with a 5-1 loss to the Twins, Detroit guarantees that the Orioles will not dethrone them for the number one pick next year. Other than that, Ynoa and Hess’s history-making futility, and some decent-ish outings by Villar (2-for-5, SB), Hays (2-for-5), Richard Bleier (1 IP, 0 H, 0 R), and Aaron Brooks (2 IP, 0 H, 0 R), it’s probably best to just shut the book on this one.