The Orioles lost another baseball game today. This is not a surprise any more, because they have now lost 14 straight games to make this the worst losing streak the team has suffered since 1988’s 0-21 start. They have lost all of the first 14 games in the 16 games in 16 days stretch and are now 5-23 in the month of May. It is ridiculous and it is not over yet.
The rules of baseball statistics dictate that the losing pitcher in this 10-inning 3-2 loss to the Twins is Adam Plutko. He was on the mound when the Orioles fell behind for good in the top of the tenth inning. That is because the extra innings “Manfred Man” who started out on second base advanced to third base on a groundout and then scored on a wild pitch when Plutko threw a slider that freshly called up catcher Austin Wynns was not able to keep in front of him and the Twins scored their second run without having to record a hit.
That is a real 2021 Orioles punctuation mark on a loss. The catcher called up for his defense is the guy who can’t block the pitch. Was it Wynns’s fault? I would say not really. Wynns did everything he was supposed to, and then the ball caromed off of his chest protector in just about the only spot where it would ricochet several feet away towards the Orioles dugout. Bad luck explains a lot of why the O’s have lost 14 in a row.
Let’s not act like bad luck is the only reason, of course. Plutko followed up the wild pitch by giving up a home run to Twins leadoff hitter Jorge Polanco. This third Twins run proved to be the truly decisive one in the game’s outcome.
The Orioles also got a Manfred Man in the bottom of the tenth. That’s how baseball was played last year and how it’s played this year as well. Whatever would happen, they would have the tying run at the plate to start the inning. There are worse situations to be in.
The thing about starting with a runner on second base is that it also means you start out with a runner in scoring position. The Orioles, counting futility earlier in this game, entered the tenth inning with an impressively futile streak of 0-29 in at-bats with runners in scoring position. That is real dedication to failure. You don’t get that kind of commitment from just anybody.
DJ Stewart immediately snapped that streak. He doubled on the first pitch he saw from Twins reliever Hansel Robles, splitting the gap between the Twins left fielder and center fielder to easily score the Manfred Man. This put the tying run at second base with still no one out, and when Robles threw his own wild pitch, Stewart advanced to third base, still with no one out.
Stewart’s hit broke the 0-for but did not chase away the futility. Needing only a ball in the air to tie the game, Ryan Mountcastle struck out. Stevie Wilkerson worked a one-out walk to bring Wynns to the plate. Wynns had over a 1.000 OPS for Triple-A Norfolk. He struck out in the 10th and was 0-4 for the day. Go figure. With two outs, the Orioles finally got the fly ball now that it no longer mattered, as pinch hitter Freddy Galvis flew out to right to end the game in the loss column for the O’s. Their next 0-for streak with RISP is now at 0-3.
Of the many reasons that this loss is a shame, maybe the biggest is this: Jorge López pitched six innings and did not run into problems in either the fifth or the sixth innings. It has been his quest to follow that star, no matter how hopeless and no matter how far. Like Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha, the star was unreachable for him ... until today.
López looked like a real major league pitcher. He struck out seven Twins batters over six innings. The only run they scored when López was in the game came in the third inning, when a leadoff single by vampire nemesis Kyle Garlick turned into a run.
This run was, like many things about the 2021 Orioles, stupid. The next batter after Garlick hit a comebacker to López, who looked to third base first only to see no Orioles fielder there, then could not throw to first in time. Garlick later scored on a fielder’s choice that might have been a double play with a slicker combo than Wilkerson and Pat Valaika, but in any case, with none out, the run would have scored on the double play.
In the fifth, López allowed only a two-out single. In the sixth, he had a little more of a jam in that former bad haircut-haver Josh Donaldson led off with a single, one of three hits he picked up today. López got the big outs, including striking out former Oriole Nelson Cruz for the second time in the game. He left with the score tied, 1-1. There haven’t been many López starts where you could say this, but he deserved better than he got. For his next trick, maybe he can get through a fifth and sixth inning against a team other than the Twins.
The Orioles offense was not good. This has been true in a number of games as this losing streak has dragged on. They’ve scored two or fewer runs in five of their last six games and haven’t scored more than four runs in their last eight games. When you hold a team to seven hits, you should win.
The problem is that the Orioles only got six hits. Cedric Mullins got a leadoff double, and then the next 13 Orioles were set down in a row. That streak was happily snapped in the fifth inning by Mountcastle, who got a hold of a pitch and drove it over the fence in center field. If you followed the “Look at the outfielder” rule for fly balls, you saw the Twins’ Refsnyder tracking the ball back to the fence as if he had a play on it, only to thump off of the fence that he seemed not to realize was there as the ball landed 410 feet away from home plate.
With the way he was plowing through the Orioles lineup, Twins starter José Berríos pitched into the ninth inning. It’s rare enough these days, but Berríos had thrown 97 pitches through eight and they gave him a chance for the complete game. It was not a “strike out a ton” game for the Orioles, as Berríos only picked up six of these in his eight innings. They still lost even when they didn’t strike out a lot. Berríos was lifted when Trey Mancini led off the ninth with a single. Mancini was the only Oriole with a multi-hit game.
Speedy Ryan McKenna pinch ran for Mancini. It did not matter. Anthony Santander struck out and Maikel Franco grounded into an inning-ending double play to send the game into extra frames, where the Orioles lost, again.
The Orioles will try once again to beat the Twins for the first time since Opening Day 2018 as the series resumes at 7:05 on Tuesday evening. Michael Pineda and Bruce Zimmermann are the scheduled starting pitchers for the contest. There has not been a 15-game losing streak in the majors since 2013, when the Astros, in Mike Elias’s second full season as an assistant there, lost 15 in a row.