The Orioles August free fall continues uninterrupted. They were not able to bring a temporary halt to it on Sunday afternoon against the Red Sox, getting swept out of Boston. The 6-2 loss marks the eleventh straight setback for the O’s.
Two other streaks were snapped in the game by the Orioles. One was Cedric Mullins’s 20-game hitting streak. He went 0-5. Eric Davis’s franchise record will last a while longer. They also snapped out of an 0-34 streak with runners in scoring position.
Not that it makes the loss count as any less of a loss, but it wasn’t a complete laugher like many of the games in the losing streak have been. The Orioles even managed to take the lead in the first inning. After Mullins made an out to lead off the game, Austin Hays walked and Trey Mancini singled to give the Orioles more chances to break the RISP futility.
Anthony Santander dropped a hit into shallow left field that was not placed well enough to score the runner with only one out. How very 2021 Orioles that they would finally snap that streak and still not get a run out of it. Except, thanks to the Red Sox defense, they did get a run out of it.
Sox designated hitter-in-left field J.D. Martinez threw in to the cutoff man, whose casual attempt to field the throw led to the ball bouncing off towards the stands on the third base side. The result of the error was Hays scoring the first O’s run. No RBI for Santander on the play.
Did this 1-0 lead last even one inning? No, friends, it did not. You probably did not expect any better when you found out that Keegan Akin was making the emergency start after having been demoted to the bullpen. Akin allowed a leadoff single, then got hopes up for a clean inning by getting a double play ball. Except then he went right back to allowing runners: A single, a walk, and then a hanging slider to that same Martinez produced a 3-1 Red Sox lead.
As it turned out, these were the only runs allowed by Akin in the game, so it could have been worse. He even passed the Matusz Test, my metric that looks at a starting pitcher with a disgusting ERA and asks whether he can manage to lower it. Akin entered the day with an 8.23 ERA and ended it with an 8.13 ERA. That’s not good at all - he gave up three runs in only four innings - but it does pass the test, unlike 2011 Brian Matusz, for whom it is named.
By the time Akin came out of the game, MASN’s Scott Garceau was ready to deem it a successful day for him. I won’t go that far. It still took Akin 77 pitches to get through four innings. He allowed six hits and three walks. It could have been worse. It could have been a lot better. There is a reason the Orioles are 1-9 in games started by Akin in 2021. He is going to have to do a lot more than pitch like he did today to look like part of the next good Orioles team.
For one inning, the bullpen managed to keep the game from getting out of hand. Manager Brandon Hyde summoned Marcos Diplán for the fifth inning. Diplán brought a 5.1 inning hitless streak to begin his MLB career into the game. He retired three Red Sox batters on 16 pitches to continue that streak to 6.1 innings. He may end up being the latest player to sort of get your hopes up a little bit only to melt down later.
The guy after Diplán did not do as well. That was Fernando Abad, whose not particularly good Norfolk performance in 2021 (4.26 ERA, 1.421 WHIP) was nonetheless rewarded with a big league callup today when the O’s decided to dump Adam Plutko.
After a leadoff sixth inning double, Abad walked two batters to load the bases. To be fair to Abad, today’s home plate umpire had some mystifying calls in the game and three of the eight supposed balls in these walks were in the strike zone. Still, enough was enough for Hyde. He brought in Tanner Scott.
One good illustration of how there are few, or no, good choices to be made about Orioles relievers is this situation. Bringing in Scott to an inning where the bases are already loaded and the umpire is already demonstrating a small strike zone is not a good choice. Leaving Abad in would not have been a good choice. Bringing in just about any reliever other than maybe Cole Sulser would not have been a good choice.
Scott tried his best to clear the bases immediately, allowing a grounder down the left field line to Alex Verdugo. However, in a stroke of fortune for the Orioles, this grounder ricocheted off the third base umpire’s foot, meaning only one run scored on a single instead of a bases-clearing double into the left field corner.
Did Scott capitalize on this good fortune? Again, friends, I must say that he did not. Scott, still facing the bases loaded, walked in a run. He completed the trifecta of allowing inherited runners to score with an RBI groundout. All three runs were charged to Abad, who retired one batter and thus has an 81.00 ERA. Konner Wade, another fresh callup for the day, pitched the next two innings and gave up no runs, lowering his season ERA from 32.40 to 14.73. I guess that’s something.
The Orioles offense had just six hits all game and did not collect an extra-base hit until the ninth inning when DJ Stewart hit a pinch-hit double. That would have made for a tough way to win even if Akin had pitched better and Abad had not pitched at all. Though they were facing off against Red Sox starter Eduardo Rodriguez, who entered the game with an ERA over 5, they only scored one run while he was in the game - and that one was unearned due to the first inning error.
That’s the way it is for the 38-78 Orioles lately. They will probably break out of this eventually, but today wasn’t the day and so they’re now 1-12 in August. It’s rough to watch, and probably not much less rough if you only experience it by checking the box score at the end of the day. The jabronis are currently on pace for a 53-109 record at season’s end.
There’s no rest for the weary. The O’s travel to Florida next for four games against the division-leading Rays. Matt Harvey is set to start the 7:10 opener on Monday, with a currently unknown pitcher going for Tampa Bay. I don’t have much hope of the Orioles avoiding their losing streak stretching out to twelve games.