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Thursday afternoon Orioles game thread: at Cleveland, 1:10

Because they can’t literally lose forever.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Cleveland Indians
This is not what the Orioles winning looks like.
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Last night’s 8-7 loss made seven losses in a row and eighteen, count ‘em, eighteen, games the Orioles have dropped on the road, an official team record. Not the kind of record you want to see broken. But if you’re aiming to see history in the making, well, this is what we’re stuck with. The team is now four away from the all-time mark, set by the 1963 Mets and the 1943 Philadelphia Athletics (and tied last night by the Arizona Diamondbacks).

The team has been finding new ways to lose. If it isn’t an ice-cold offense with runners in scoring position, it’s a pitching staff that’s lost its mojo—and temporarily, its ace to shoulder soreness— or a defense that’s suddenly decided to go all Keystone Cops on us. Since last Saturday, the team has made 10 errors, at least one per game. So far, in three games against Cleveland, the Orioles have made seven. At some point you find yourself reflecting on the important things: Which DJ Stewart error was funnier, 2020’s flyball-off-the-head or 2021’s faceplant-in-the-outfield?

You know things are in dire straits when the GM and the manager speak to the media on the same day to urge patience and focus on the big picture.

About the best thing we can say is that it has to end sometime.

And why not today, Thursday, June 17th, 2021, on a start by Jorge López? López’s last start, on Saturday against the Rays, was not terrible. Over 4.2 innings he allowed five runs on eight hits. But a couple of those were silly, defense-aided hits, not a home run was to be seen (except by the Orioles—that was the Austin Wynns grand salami game), and López struck out eight and walked just one. Over his last 21 2/3 innings, the righty has struck out 20 batters. In this rotation, that’s what’s called a bright spot.

One specific thing López has done this year, compared to the rest of his career, is improve his four-seam fastball and his slider. The heater is now in MLB’s 77th percentile in velocity, and it’s a plus pitch in terms of run value (-2.8 RV/100), along with his slider. The fastball has a nice 27.4% whiff rate and the slider an even nicer one, at 33.3%.

With a 5.64 ERA on the season, López may not exactly wow you as a long-time rotation option for this Orioles team. But he has interesting stuff, and there are times, on any given day, when he looks like he’s going to finally put things together.

Maybe that’ll be today…

Against López is a guy literally none of the Orioles have faced before, RHP Eli Morgan, a fastball-changeup-slider type called up recently by the Indians because of their injury-depleted rotation. An eighth-round selection for Cleveland in 2017 out of Gonzaga, the 25-year-old made his MLB debut on May 28, 2021 against Toronto. Suffice it to say, it went poorly. Rain and the Blue Jays bats combined to terrorize Morgan, to the tune of six runs in 2 ⅔ innings. This will be his second career start.

Look, I don’t like beating up on rookies, but I’m also tired of losing. Let’s go O’s!

Orioles lineup

1. Cedric Mullins (L) CF
2. Trey Mancini (R) 1B
3. Freddy Galvis (S) SS
4. Ryan Mountcastle (R) DH
5. Anthony Santander (S) RF
6. Austin Hays (R) LF
7. Maikel Franco (R) 3B
8. Pat Valaika (R) 2B
9. Austin Wynns (R) C

Cleveland lineup

1. Bradley Zimmer (L) CF
2. Amed Rosario (R) SS
3. José Ramirez (S) DH
4. Eddie Rosario (L) LF
5. Bobby Bradley (L) DH
6. Ryan Lavarnway (R) C
7. Josh Naylor (L) RF
8. Yu Chang (R) 3B
9. Ernie Clement (R) 2B