There were a trio of prominent storylines going into Tuesday night’s game. The Orioles had been losing, a lot, on the road. Their defense had a bad night in the series opener. And Matt Harvey was having a really tough time finding the form he had earlier in the season.
Well, Tuesday closed the book on neither one of those narratives.
Baltimore’s defense was sloppy again, Harvey was shaky again, and the Orioles’ road losing streak reached 17 games with a 7-2 loss to Cleveland in a game that had about as much rush and excitement as a mid-afternoon nap.
Start with Harvey. He has struggled mightily since May 7, posting a 14.19 ERA over the six starts leading up to Tuesday, and he had a rough go of it again. He made it only 3.1 innings - extending his streak of appearances lasting fewer than five innings to eight - he struck out only two and he allowed six hits, two walks and six runs, five of which were earned. It wasn’t the worst he’s looked, but he wasn’t good either, and he never delivered that out pitch he needed to work himself out of jams.
That being said, his defense didn’t help him out at all, and instead played as if it collectively had a grudge against the man on the mound.
After making two costly errors the night before, the O’s made four errors Tuesday. They went to work quickly, as Cesar Hernandez led off the first with a walk, Trey Mancini’s bobble on a Jose Ramirez grounder prevented him from being able to throw out the lead runner, and Stevie Wilkerson mishandled a grounder at second base. The miscues proved costly when Bobby Bradley then singled, making it 1-0.
The Orioles tied things in the top of the second when Freddy Galvis singled with two outs and Maikel Franco doubled him in, and they navigated a two-out error by Mancini in the second to maintain the even score.
They weren’t so lucky in the fourth. Josh Naylor led off with a double into right-center field, and Ernie Clement singled to center. Naylor was all set to hold at third, but Cedric Mullins’s throw sailed all the way to the backstop, and Naylor ran home with Harvey late to cover the plate.
It was a messy play all around. Jim Palmer said Mancini let the throw go through rather than cutting it off, which would have kept Naylor at third, and added that catcher Austin Wynns should have been communicating the situation more clearly. Add in Harvey’s late arrival to the plate, and the end result was a breakdown that put the Orioles behind to stay.
Cleveland kept coming, getting a broken bat RBI single from Bradley Zimmer just past a diving Mancini, an RBI single from Amed Rosario, and then a two-run double from Eddie Rosario that made it a five-run inning and put Cleveland ahead 6-1.
There was only one more error to come, Wilkerson’s second miscue of the day in the eighth, but the damage had already been done.
Stuck in a hole - one that got deeper when Bradley homered off Adam Plutko in the bottom of the seventh - the Orioles couldn’t muster much of a threat. Baltimore struck out 10 times over the five innings that followed Cleveland’s fourth-inning rally, and could do little to dent the host’s bullpen.
Baltimore did get one back in the top of the fifth. Mullins legged out a one-out chopper to first for an infield single, beating pitcher Blake Parker to the bag when he hesitated getting over to cover. Mancini followed with a line-drive double into the left field gap that reached the wall, and Mullins easily sped around the bases and scored to cut Baltimore’s deficit to 6-2.
Baltimore flirted with another rally in the top of the sixth when D.J. Stewart led off with a single and Galvis followed with a one-out hit, but strikeouts of Franco and Wilkerson ended Baltimore’s last real push to tighten up the game.
Instead, the last innings played out without many threats from the Birds, and therefore little edge-of-your-seat drama. The most exciting moment of the last three innings came when announcers Kevin Brown and Palmer tried to identify a Cleveland mascot that showed up on camera in the stands.
“What is that!?” Brown asked.
“I think it’s an onion,” Palmer answered.
Riveting stuff. It was that kind of game. They happen, but when you’ve lost 17 games in a row on the road, they just become a little tougher to bear.