You guys. Seriously. What is it with the Marlins?
Why have the Orioles, throughout their history, been so utterly incapable of beating this team?
The Fish completed a doubleheader sweep of the Birds with a 2-1 victory in the nightcap, putting them on the brink of sweeping the four-game series tomorrow. It also dropped the Orioles to 8-25 lifetime against the Marlins, their worst performance against any MLB club in franchise history.
Eight and 25! (How did they ever win eight?)
The saving grace is that the Orioles don’t have to play the Marlins very much. In the last 18 years, this is only the sixth series between the two clubs. But you probably won’t be shocked to hear that the Marlins have won all of those series, taking 14 of 18 games overall.
Maybe those were just some good Marlins teams? you say. No, not really! Almost all of them ended the season with losing records, and some were in disarray even at the time they played the Orioles. In 2010, the Marlins fired their manager, Fredi Gonzalez, after he beat the Orioles in the first game of a series. His replacement, Edwin Rodriguez, promptly beat the Orioles again the next day. In 2015, the O’s began a series with Miami when the Fish were on an eight-game losing streak and again had just changed managers. Their interim skipper, Dan Jennings, who had lost his first five games, racked up two straight wins over the Birds.
Going back further, the Orioles lost two of three games to the 1998 Marlins, who were the worst team in baseball that year, finishing 54-108. And the very first time the two teams faced off, in interleague play’s inaugural year in 1997, the O’s got swept in three games. Yes, those were the same Orioles who went wire-to-wire and finished 98-64. (Although, in fairness, the Marlins won the World Series that year, so they were no pushovers.)
It doesn’t matter whether they’re called the Miami Marlins or the Florida Marlins, whether they’re a horrific team or just a mediocre one. For 23 years running, the story has been the same. The Orioles simply cannot beat these guys.
The Orioles can’t beat these guys even when the Marlins have to suddenly replace 17 members of their roster with a cavalcade of scrap heap signings, waiver claims, and minor league call-ups. They can’t beat these guys even when they cobble together a bullpen game featuring four guys making their Marlins season debut, as was the case in tonight’s doubleheader finale.
This nightcap, in addition to being scheduled for just seven innings (in accordance with MLB’s new 2020 doubleheader rules), brought another peculiarity: the Orioles were the away team on their home field. Since it was a makeup of a game originally scheduled to be played in Miami, the Marlins got to bat second, leading to the bizarre sight of a team pouring out of the visiting dugout at Camden Yards to take the field first. (The O’s, though, showing no sense of whimsy, wore their home white jerseys instead of their road grays.)
Batting first, batting second...it really doesn’t matter if you can can’t score any runs. The Orioles, for the third straight game, put up one of the most listless efforts you’ll ever see from an offense. Not only were they shut down, but they looked bad doing it. There weren’t any hard-hit scorchers that just happened to find fielders’ mitts. There weren’t long, patient at-bats that made the pitcher sweat. The O’s, almost to a man, just flailed helplessly at terrible pitches and made weak contact whenever they managed to get a bat on the ball. They had no plan; no clue; no hope.
The Marlins started the game with right-hander Josh A. Smith, whose middle initial is required because he’s one of two Josh Smiths currently on the Marlins. (The other, lefty Josh D. Smith, sadly did not make an appearance tonight.) Smith handily stymied the O’s for his two innings of work, allowing a single and a walk in the second but stranding the runners. He was followed by Sterling Sharp, a Rule 5 pick from the Nationals, who was making his major league debut. The Orioles made it easy for him, going down in order in the third. Jose Iglesias doubled to lead off the fourth, but Sharp and lefty Brian Moran (B.J. Surhoff’s nephew) combined to retire the next three hitters.
Meanwhile, O’s starter Asher Wojciechowski fell behind in the first inning, which essentially doomed him to defeat. He walked leadoff man Jonathan Villar on his first four pitches, and Jon Berti whacked his fifth one for a double into the left-field corner. Jesus Aguilar brought home a run with a sac fly, and with two down, Brian Anderson poked a grounder right to where the second baseman would normally be...except Hanser Alberto was pulled over to the left side in the shift. The gift single plated Berti to give the Marlins a quick 2-0 lead.
It’s too bad about that rough first inning, because otherwise Wojo was quite sharp tonight, good enough to win if he had gotten any run support. After the Anderson single, Wojciechowski retired 10 consecutive batters, mowing down Marlins until the bottom of the fifth. The Fish tried to mount another rally that inning — with a pair of former Orioles, Ryan Lavarnway and Villar, both singling — but Wojciechowski stranded them both in scoring position, ending the inning on a Berti groundout to third.
Wojo pounded the strike zone, throwing 42 of his 67 pitches for strikes and issuing only one walk. He departed after the fifth, giving up four hits and two runs. That’s the kind of outing you’ll gladly take from a starting pitcher.
If only Wojciechowski could have gotten a chance to step to the plate himself and take some hacks. He couldn’t have been much worse than the sorry lot of O’s hitters that was asked to support him. The Birds wasted a leadoff walk in the fifth, with Andrew Velazquez, Cedric Mullins, and Hanser Alberto all striking out, to stretch their scoreless inning streak to 21.
Finally, the Birds scratched a run across in the top of the sixth, assuring they wouldn’t be shut out for a third straight game. Anthony Santander singled and Pedro Severino walked against Justin Shafer, and with two down, Shafer had to leave with an apparent injury. Lefty Stephen Tarpley — a former O’s prospect, ill-advisedly traded for Travis Snider in 2015 — faced Austin Hays, who ripped a shot to the left side that bounced past both defenders. Santander scored to make it a 2-1 game. But any hopes of a bigger rally were dashed when Pat Valaika flied out harmlessly to right.
The Orioles had one last wasted opportunity in the final inning, the seventh. Velazquez worked a leadoff walk from Tarpley, but pinch-hitter Bryan Holaday swung at the first pitch and bounced into a tailor-made double play. What’s weirder: that third catcher Bryan Holaday was the Orioles’ best pinch-hitting option, or that he’s arguably a better hitter than like four players in the starting lineup? In any case, Alberto’s lazy flyout to right ended the game and another disappointing loss.