It was bound to happen. Rookie Spenser Watkins was bound to have a bad night. After an inspiring start to his major league career since his debut on July 2nd, Watkins finally stumbled. His rough start, combined with an underachieving offense, spelled out at 7-3 loss to the Miami Marlins.
Watkins was never even supposed to be here. Drafted in the 30th round in 2014, he had been toiling in the minor leagues and was thinking of quitting before the Orioles signed him to a minor league deal. And the good thing about signing a minor league deal with the Orioles is that they are really, really bad. So there is opportunity!
He started his major league career with one scoreless inning and followed it with three starts in which he allowed one run in each. In this mostly dreary Orioles season, his start has been a ray of sunshine.
Unfortunately things didn’t go so well for Watkins tonight. After a 1-2-3 first he got into trouble in the second. With a runner on first, Isan Diaz hit a ball off of the scoreboard that looked like to me like it would knock in a run. But DJ Stewart played the bounce nicely and the runner stayed at third.
Watkins then battled with Sandy Leon, who fouled off three straight pitches with two strikes and then absolutely demolished a pitch that landed on Eutaw Street. He was the first Marlin to hit it! Magneuris Sierra followed with a single but Watkins got out of the inning with no further damage. But he was getting hit hard.
He was right back in trouble in the third inning. He loaded the bases thanks to two singles and a walk, but Ryan Mountcastle made a very nice diving play at first to get the last out and keep runs off the board.
Watkins allowed another run in the fourth inning, and that was the end of the day for him. Not a great day, but he’s been good enough so far this year to warrant at least another chance. The cynic in me has been waiting for Spenser Watkins to prove he isn’t ready for the majors, but I will keep dreaming on him until we know for sure.
The O’s offense didn’t offer much support to Watkins or to the relief pitchers who followed. After going hitless through the first three innings, Austin Hays blasted his 10th home run of the year. Trey Mancini followed that with the first of his two doubles, but he was stranded.
The always hot Cedric Mullins had a solo home run of his own in the sixth inning, part of another multi-hit night for the All Star. And in the following inning, the Orioles scored another single run. Stewart hit an automatic double that bounced over the all in left field, then Ramon Urias singled back up the middle to knock him in.
The offense made some noise in the eighth inning courtesy of Mullins (single) and Mancini (double) but Hays, Stewart, and Mountcastle couldn’t bring them in. They went quietly in the ninth.
Manager Brandon Hyde opted to go with the B-team of relievers in this game, and it was probably the right move. Following Watkins was Shaun Anderson, Adam Plutko, and Conner Greene. None of them was a disaster, none of them were great. Anderson gave up a homer to the first batter he faced but went on to retire the next six as he pitched two innings. Plutko also gave up a homer in his inning of work.
Then came the major league debut of Conner Greene, the 12th major league debut on the Orioles this season. I don’t know what the record for major league debuts in one season for a team is, but 12 feels like a lot. I love major league debuts! I love how hopeful and exciting it is. I love the excited friends and family in the stands, taking pictures and cheering for their guy. Tonight as the camera panned Greene’s family, we saw one family member holding up a phone where a woman was on a video call looking terribly excited. Just adorable.
Greene came out of the gate with a surge of adrenaline, pumping in fastballs at 98 and 99 mph. He struck out the first batter he faced and got a quick groundout, but grazed Starling Marte for a HBP. A stolen base and single later and Conner Greene had given up his first major league run.
Greene came back for the ninth inning and gave up another single and another stolen base, but no more runs. His first two major league innings were messy but I won’t mind seeing a little more of him. With Tyler Wells due to return from the IL this weekend, it’s unknown how much longer Greene will be with the team.
Orioles lose, 7-3. They failed to win a fourth consecutive game for the sixth time this season. This short series wraps up tomorrow at 7 p.m. with the O’s looking to avoid the sweep.