In what could be the last game in an Orioles uniform for several players (but being honest, probably not “several”), the team turned in an unmemorable effort all around. O’s pitchers seemed to have a soft spot for 38-year-old Miguel Cabrera’s Hall of Fame chances, because they allowed him to pad his stats with his 2937th, 2938th and 2939th career hits, including his 497th and 498th career home runs. The grizzled Cabrera looked so good tonight that MASN’s Kevin Brown joked, “We’ve gone back a decade.” Not good, is it, when O’s pitching is the proverbial Fountain of Youth?
Meanwhile, the bats failed to do much of anything against Casey Mize. Cedric Mullins had led off the ballgame with a deep triple that made full use of Comerica Park’s cavernous dimensions and made this game look promising from the get-go. But it turned out to be a desert mirage. Mize wasn’t quite a bona fide ace tonight, but he breezed through seven innings with just four hits, two walks, and an unearned run allowed. It was a snoozeworthy performance from the bats, especially the bottom of the lineup: Domingo Leyba and Austin Wynns were pretty much automatic outs. (Wynns did, however, flash the leather with a runner caught stealing in the sixth.)
Meanwhile, whether you’re a fan of the “Quality Start” statistic or not, it’s fair to say that four runs over five innings is not exactly what Orioles fans dream of from their starters. Alex Wells, the slow-throwing lefty known throughout his career in the Orioles minors as a control artist, struggled with his command all evening, walking three and requiring 90 pitches to go five innings.
The Tigers plated two runs against Wells in the first after a leadoff walk and air-mailed pickoff throw put former Rule 5 pick Akil Baddoo on third with no outs. The first run scored on a bouncing single by old Orioles buddy Jonathan Schoop. (A cute Schoop-Mancini reunion at first base was one of the few nice things that happened all game.) Then Cabrera notched a single, his first of three hits tonight, and Schoop tagged on a fly ball to push across the Tigers’ second run.
We would learn from MASN announcers Kevin Brown and Ben McDonald that historically this happens to Wells, who can be a little wild in the first but then calms down. The problem is, he didn’t get that much better. Wells breezed through a nine-pitch second inning, but this, like Mullins’ leadoff triple, proved to be another mirage. He allowed another run in the third on a Jonathan Schoop double, Miguel Cabrera walk, and a pair of singles. The inning ended with an excellent catch by Cedric Mullins, one of those balls that’s marked “flyout” on an old-timey scorecard or “flies out sharply” on Gameday but would be more accurately rendered as: “CF saves P’s ass.”
After a quick fourth inning, Wells got tagged again in the fifth, gallantly allowing the future Hall of Famer Cabrera to pad his stats with a solo home run. Just one more time in recent years that Orioles pitchers seem to be on the wrong side of history.
I know I’ve neglected to talk about the Orioles offense for five whole paragraphs but trust me when I say that it was basically just a bunch of groundballs and weak flyouts.
Or trust Ben McDonald, who said in the seventh: “Casey Mize has been in total control this game.” Funnily enough, right then, the Orioles plated their first and only run against Mize on a weird little “rally.” McKenna stroked a one-out single to right field, his second of the day. Who says this guy can’t hit? Franco blooped a single to follow him, but Domingo Leyba’s flyout to left was too shallow for even the speedy McKenna to tag on—or was it? The leftfielder Baddoo made a horrible throw up the first base line that spooked the catcher, and McKenna alertly went back to the bag, tagged, and scored. I don’t know how Baddoo’s throwing arm is normally, but take nothing away from McKenna here, who yet again showed his enormous value as a heads-up baserunner who makes defenders do silly things.
After Wells’ short start, Adam Plutko pitched a quick sixth inning, assisted by Austin Wynns erasing a baserunner with a perfect throw to second. “That ball was straight as an arrow,” said Ben McDonald. Wynns isn’t hitting, but he has thrown out eight of 14 baserunners who’ve tried to run on him.
After two outs in the seventh, Plutko suddenly got very hittable, allowing Miggy’s historic 498th home run before a single and a run-scoring triple to Jeimer Candelario put the Tigers up 6-1. Another nice catch by Ryan McKenna ended the inning. (Don’t take this guy out of the lineup, please!)
The Orioles did scrape out a second weird run in the eighth. Mize was relieved by José Cisnero, who can we all agree was pretty wild? Cisnero quickly doubled Detroit pitchers’ walk total on the night with two quick ones before a Trey Mancini GIDP appeared to squish the rally. But Cisnero, undeterred, nearly beaned Ramón Urías and the wild pitch allowed Cedric Mullins to trot home.
And that was pretty much it. Shaun Anderson, who’s been better in his last few appearances but still has an 8.27 ERA, pitched a scoreless eighth, though he, too, was bailed out by another running catch, thanks again to Cedric Mullins.
So yeah, a pretty flat performance all around. Outfield defense was a highlight, at least. Best to turn the page on this one and regroup for tomorrow night.