Surely, somebody is going to step up for the Orioles to stop this tragic road losing streak, now stretching to nineteen games? [Looks around, hears crickets.] Today’s plan for salvation saw the Orioles pinning their hopes on the righty Jorge López. The hole in that plan: talented though he is, López makes a lot of boneheaded errors. Today was proof positive. He’d flash 97 on the fastball and a biting knuckle curve, then get squeezed a little on the corners, lose his cool, and throw an idiotic, obvious, really hittable pitch.
The first inning was typical. With a man on and a 3-0 count, López threw Cleveland’s best hitter, José Ramírez, a fastball right down the middle. I felt like I could hear Monty Python’s John Cleese narrating: “That was a very silly pitch.” Given the green light by manager Terry Francona, Ramírez tattooed the ball into the right-field bleachers. Two batters later, López did the same exact thing to Bobby Bradley, who homered on his 3-1, middle-middle fastball. A brief replay kerfuffle ensued because a fan had reached over the fence, but in fairness, the ball was gone. 3-0 Indians.
Unlike in some recent games, the Birds had some fight in them today. They got one run right back in the bottom of the inning. Austin Hays, cold at the plate since his return from the IL, greeted Cleveland rookie Eli Morgan very rudely with a 421-foot bomb to center in the second inning. Like that, the lead was cut to two.
Bombs away, Hays. pic.twitter.com/nO9i3acJ10— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) June 17, 2021
The second was a breeze for López, but the leaks—and home runs—started to reappear in the third. A few feet spared us another José Ramírez dinger: instead, after golfing López’s knuckle curve 300 feet foul, he struck out staring at 96 mph on the corner. But Eddie Rosario would get to López, after all, with yet another home run. Indians 4, Orioles 1.
Again, the Orioles clawed the runs back. This time it was Maikel Franco, driving a hanging curveball into the stands. (It didn’t seem to matter what these pitchers were throwing today; it was leaving the ballpark.) The other Austin, the one who catches, stroked a double to drive the starter from the game after 3 2/3 innings. A scary moment ensued when his replacement, reliever Kyle Nelson plunked Cedric Mullins in the head with a slider. It clearly wasn’t on purpose, and Mullins was OK. After that, the Orioles plated a very Oriole run on a Trey Mancini bloop single to right field that allowed Wynns, chugging all the way with two outs from second, to make it a 4-3 game. (Mancini and Ryan Mountcastle had two hits apiece today, and everyone but Pat Valaika got on base at least once. Little victories.)
Again, López had a chance to hold the line, and couldn’t. Another run squeaked by in the fourth, and it started with a one-out walk. The inning almost ended on a double play, but a challenge overturned the call at first. With new life, the Indians’ No. 9 batter drove a double off the wall that allowed the runner on first to score. A better cutoff throw from Freddy Galvis to Austin Wynns could have nailed him. Could have, but didn’t. 5-3 Indians.
After a single and a popout allowed in the fifth, López was yanked for Cole Sulser, who shut down the next two Cleveland hitters to preserve López’s final line, such as it was: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 3 SO, 3 HR. For all that López had a few nice moments today, the stupid ones outweighed them, and most crucially, he failed the Matusz test, his ERA ticking up a few tenths of a point to 5.95.
The bats didn’t help close the gap any further, but the bullpen giving up runs definitely didn’t boost the mood, either. Sulser got into serious hot water in the sixth. Old Orioles friend Ryan Lavarnway, just called up by Cleveland, singled and Josh Naylor doubled to center. With two on and none out, the Orioles turned to Dillon Tate. I didn’t like the call: Tate has been hit-prone lately, with a 1.43 WHIP in his last seven appearances. But hey, nobody asked my opinion. A single off of Tate plated two to make it 7-3 Indians.
It ended up being a weirdly good outing for Tate, other than that first single allowed. He allowed no more damage in the sixth and pitched a brilliant seventh, striking out two with a really nifty changeup/slider combo. With the righty flashing three good pitches today, I actually started to wonder about Tate’s starter potential. After all, he was drafted as a starter by the Rangers in 2015 and was still starting for the Yankees’ Double-A Trenton when the Orioles picked him up in 2018…
Oh yeah, sorry, back to the game. I really wish I could tell you that the Orioles staged a brilliant five-run comeback in the ninth inning to win today’s contest and resume playing respectable baseball. But that would make me a liar. Instead, what happened was this: Mac Sceroler allowed three runs in a shaky eighth, his second ineffective appearance in a row since returning to the roster. The Orioles got swept in four games at Cleveland. And they continue to drag around a painful
eighteen nineteen-game road losing streak.
Hopes for better rest on the moderately beefy shoulders of lefty Bruce Zimmermann as the Birds head back to Baltimore tomorrow. Since they’re playing at home, they won’t test the road losing record, but I think, in whatever guise, we’d all take a win right now.