It took eight innings for the Orioles to record their first hit of the night against a cavalcade of Astros pitchers, but Maikel Franco’s late homer was nowhere near enough as the O’s dropped the series opener 10-2 on Monday night/early Tuesday morning.
Baseball is capable of producing some of the most compelling and unexpected moments in all of professional sports. This Orioles-Astros game was not one of those moments. The Orioles, who are quite bad, played like one of the worst teams in baseball. The Astros, who are quite good, played like a team that is bound for the postseason.
It was a weird, long night at Camden Yards. The start time of the game was delayed by an hour due to rain and thunderstorms around Baltimore. The threat of inclement weather continued throughout the night. It then began down-pouring before and during the Astros’ half of the eighth inning. For some reason, the umpiring crew allowed the field to get soaked for several minutes prior to calling for the tarp again, but the Orioles’ grounds crew did a marvelous job of cleaning up the mess in time to resume the game after another 40-minute break.
All the while, the Orioles were struggling at the plate. They failed to record a hit through the first seven innings of the game. To that point, DJ Stewart was the lone Oriole to reach base. He did so via a walk in the fifth inning. Apart from that, the team had combined to go 0-for-21 with 11 strikeouts. The closest the Orioles came to a hit were a pair of lineouts. Pedro Severino hit one in the sixth inning with an expected batting average of .810, and Ryan Mountcastle hit one in the seventh inning with an expected batting average of .800.
It’s extremely fitting that the Orioles’ offense performed so poorly on the very first night that MLB has instructed umpires to strictly enforce the new rules regarding sticky substance use by pitchers. These new protocols were enacted as a response to what has been an historically bad offensive season across baseball. Strict enforcement should mean more hits. But that wasn’t the case for the O’s.
This night of offensive futility came against Jake Odorizzi, who entered the night with a 5.68 ERA but had been much better lately than that number would indicate. He was backed up, as has become the norm, by multi-inning reliever Cristian Javier. Odorizzi was locked in, inducing weak contact and racking up strikeouts. The O’s were making harder contact against Javier, but still failed to register a knock in the box score.
Eventually, the Orioles did breakthrough in the eighth inning against Brandon Bielak. Austin Hays reached base on a hit by pitch, getting plunked in the back of the head on an 83 mph slider. And then Franco smacked a hung breaking ball into the bullpen area to score the home team’s only two runs of the night. Stevie Wilkerson followed with a single for good measure.
That was it. The Birds ended the night with two runs on two hits, one walk, one hit by pitch, and 15 strikeouts. It was bad, but it wasn’t bad enough to go into a record book, so that’s something.
Houston’s bats did not have similar trouble. Keegan Akin started on the mound for the O’s, but would last just four innings after having trouble in his second trip through the lineup.
The Orioles’ lefty danced around a walk and a single in the first inning, and then used a double play to avoid trouble in the second inning, but things fell apart in the third frame. The first four hitters reached based on a double, walk, single, and walk, scoring one run. A sac fly from Yuli Gurriel scored another, and then Yordan Alvarez smacked a three-run dong to make it a five spot.
Akin would make it through an additional inning, and then return to the mound in the fifth as well. But a lead-off single was all Brandon Hyde needed to see. The rookie’s night was over. It was not his finest outing. Over his four innings of work, Akin allowed five runs on six hits, four walks, and five strikeouts. His WHIP is up to 1.57 on the season.
The bullpen wasn’t much better. Travis Lakins Sr. did well to get through the fifth and sixth innings unscathed, but then he started to falter a bit in the seventh, serving up a pair of hits, both of which would come around to score after Lakins was lifted in favor of Dillon Tate.
Mac Sceroler was dealt a tough hand. He entered the game to start the eighth inning, when it appeared to be monsooning at Camden Yards. His first batter reached base on an error by Pat Valaika, but he bounced back to strike out Jason Castro right before the game was put into the second rain delay of the night. Sceroler, somewhat shockingly, returned to the mound following the delay, and was clearly struggling. He issued a pair of walks and served up two doubles before eventually getting out of the frame. Due to the error, none of the runs are earned, but the Rule 5 pick was not sharp.
If you are searching for a bright spot, Cole Susler might be it. He struck out the side in his one scoreless inning of relief.
These two teams will play again on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. Zach Greinke (7-2, 3.74 ERA) starts for Houston. Jorge López is on the hill for Baltimore. Thankfully, the chance of rain is minimal.