More than a month and a week after John Means threw his no-hitter against the Mariners, this fact remains true: That was the most recent game that the Orioles won on the road. The O’s set a team record by losing their 14th straight road game on Saturday and set another team record on Sunday when they lost their 15th straight road game, a 7-1 defeat to seal a sweep by the Rays in the Trop.
The game was even more pathetic for the Orioles than the final score makes it seem. The O’s offense reached base safely just five times across the whole game, did not record a hit after the second inning, and did not have anyone reach base at all after the third inning. It would be hard to believe if only you have not seen this offense in action throughout the 2021 season.
It could have gone differently. Perhaps someone might have even been enough of a foolish optimist to believe that it was going to go differently after DJ Stewart, in his first ever game as a leadoff hitter, opened the game up with a single. Rays opener Michael Wacha then threw an inside pitch that hit Trey Mancini in the back elbow, putting two men on for the Orioles with none out.
Good offenses make things happen out of those situations all of the time. The Orioles are not a good offense. They entered Sunday’s game hitting just .213/.306/.333 in any plate appearance with runners on first and second. That’s bad even by the standards of the Orioles.
On Sunday afternoon, with runners on first and second and no one out in the first inning, Anthony Santander grounded into a double play, second to short to first. Santander is not breaking any speed records since his return from the injured list, with MASN analyst Jim Palmer remarking nearly every time Santander has to run the bases or in the field about how hobbled Santander looks.
With the promising rally chance almost totally snuffed out, cleanup hitter Ryan Mountcastle grounded out to end the inning. Stewart was stranded on third base.
The O’s did get on the board before the Rays in this one. The second inning once again saw the O’s leadoff man get on base. Austin Hays drew a walk. Hays moved into scoring position as Freddy Galvis attempted to bunt for a base hit. Galvis failed in that goal but was credited with a sacrifice bunt anyway. It wasn’t a bad bunt, as bunts go. Hays found his way to third base on another groundout, this one hit by Maikel Franco.
That left it up to Pat Valaika to get something positive accomplished. That’s a bad place to be in, generally, although it may surprise you to know that Valaika entered today’s game hitting 5-13 with RISP, with nine runs driven in. Valaika lined a single to left field to score Hays easily. Make that 6-14 with ten runs driven in. Valaika has hit quite poorly overall but by luck or skill has made a lot of his clutch opportunities.
That was the last Orioles hit of the game. Mancini drew a walk in the third inning to be the last Orioles baserunner of the game. Almost no one will ever expect the Orioles pitching staff to hold a 1-0 lead from innings 2-9, and indeed, the Orioles pitching staff did not do this.
The Rays tied the game in the third inning, cashing in when the bottom of their lineup did something other than stink - something the Orioles offense should really try to make happen. #8 guy Taylor Wells led off with a single against Baltimore’s own Bruce Zimmermann, followed by Zimmermann walking the #9 hitter, Brett Phillips. Don’t walk the #9 hitter who is batting .214! A fielder’s choice got Wells to third base, where he scored on a Yandy Diaz single, tying the game at 1-1.
The bottom of the lineup came back around in the fourth inning since so many reached base against Zimmermann. Consecutive singles to start the inning gave the Rays the kind of situation the O’s had in the top of the first. The leadoff single by Brandon Lowe was one of those absurd “only on the Trop carpet” hits that actually first bounced in foul territory before cuing slowly on the ground down towards third base. It is stupid. It still counts.
Two batters later, Zimmermann had given up another single and seen the runners advance on a groundout. That again brought up the #8 hitter, Walls. Guess who also started the day as a .214 hitter? Walls! Getting the easy outs against the easy guys is one way to pitch deep into a game. Walls hit a two-run single. Oh well.
In all, Zimmermann came up one out shy of getting a quality start. The Rays got to him for six hits and three walks in his 5.2 innings, scoring three runs, all earned. There have been many worse starts by O’s pitchers this year. Zimmermann’s biggest problem was he wasn’t getting first pitch strikes. Just ten of his 25 batters faced got strike one.
When Zimmermann left, there was a man on base and the game remained in striking distance for the O’s. Travis Lakins stranded the inherited runner to end the sixth. Lakins returned in the seventh, let the first two men reach base, then was bounced from the game in favor of César Valdez.
Valdez was a fun story from last year’s summer camp, which carried over into 2020 game action and a bit into April 2021. The Cinderella story appears to be over. Starting on May 11, Valdez has given up 13 runs in 11 innings. He took two more today when he gave up a grand slam to Randy Arozarena to put the O’s in a 7-1 hole. The other two runs were charged to Lakins. It is June 13 and Lakins has a 6.75 ERA, with Valdez at 5.26. They are some of the O’s many problems.
Next up for the O’s is Cleveland, where they’ll start a four-game series against the baseball team on Monday at 7:10. The starting pitcher is assumed to be Dean Kremer, currently in Norfolk, as he last pitched on June 8. Lakins was optioned to Norfolk following the game to open a roster spot. The O’s took two out of three from Cleveland in Baltimore, so maybe they can finally halt this road losing streak up the hill from Lake Erie.