Another night, another loss. Spenser Watkins was roughed up on the mound, and the bullpen didn’t offer much help as the Orioles dropped their 14th straight contest, losing 8-4 to the Rays at Tropicana Field on Wednesday night.
Unlike many of the games in the Orioles’ latest losing streak, this one actually featured a moment of brief hope at the very start.
Cedric Mullins led off the night with his 21st home run of the season, a breaking ball he golf into the right-center bleachers to give the O’s a quick 1-0 lead. It was the sixth time this year that Mullins started the O’s offensive side of the game with a long ball. The Birds were even able to add to their advantage a few batters later, when Pedro Severino singled in Austin Hays, who had reached on a base hit of his own and then gotten into scoring position on a stolen base.
6th leadoff homer of the season pic.twitter.com/k7LlpUQlzW— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) August 18, 2021
Although the O’s would put up a bit of a fight later on, that first inning would prove to be the high point of the entire evening.
Spenser Watkins trotted out to the mound and put together the type of subpar outing that we have seen from him in each of his last four starts. The 28-year-old righty immediately got knocked around in the Rays’ half of the first inning and allowed the home team to tie things up. A trio of singles from Wander Franco, Nelson Cruz, and Ji-Man Choi, with a Randy Arozarena walk in-between, scored two runs in quick succession.
Watkins would settle down a bit, and work around hits in the second and third inning, before fighting through a rough fourth (and final) frame. In that inning, Joey Wendle led off with a double and later came around to score on a Brandon Lowe single. Lowe moved to second on a steal, and then crossed home plate on a Franco double.
It was not a good start from Watkins, but the bar for what is acceptable from an Orioles’ starter is quite low, and it is possible that his 5.63 ERA is still worth another trip to the hill. Who even knows anymore.
The bullpen work behind the O’s starter was a mixed bag. Tanner Scott was good. Brandon Hyde threw him out in a low-leverage situation to help him get his mojo back, and maybe it worked. The hard-throwing lefty did issue a walk and unleash a wild pitch, but managed to escape the inning unscathed. Progress!
Paul Fry was bad. He faced three hitters and failed to get any of them out, including a pair of walks. Dillon Tate came on to get out of the jam and instead allowed all three inherited runners to score. As a result, Fry’s ERA soared again to 5.64. ERA is a poor metric by which to judge a relief pitcher, but it does illustrate just how tragic Fry’s performance has been since the trade deadline passed. He was sitting at 3.35 entering August.
Cesar Valdez was fine. He did give up a run, but he also threw two innings and struck out two in the process. We’ll give him a pass there.
If you only count runs scored after the sixth inning, then Orioles win going away. Austin Wynns drove in Jorge Mateo on a single in the seventh inning to score the team’s third run of the day. And then Ryan Mountcastle smacked his 20th dong of the season in the eighth inning to make it 8-4. Mountcastle’s longball came off of old friend Shawn Armstrong, who made his Rays debut in this one.
✅ 10-game hitting streak— Orioles on MASN (@masnOrioles) August 19, 2021
✅ 20th homer
Not too shabby for a rookie pic.twitter.com/yPEtitPcBk
Unfortunately, the two teams had agreed to play this game by normal baseball rules, so they had to count all nine innings. So, this did become the Orioles’ 14th straight loss.
It’s nice to see Mullins and Mountcastle hit home runs. Those two are poised to be important cogs in the Orioles machine for a long time to come, so any positives from them are appreciated. Other than that, this was another game that was tough to watch.
The Orioles will hope to avoid a 15th consecutive loss on Thursday. It would be their worst streak of the season if they reach it. Jorge López (3-13, 6.14 ERA) is on the bump, and he will be opposed by Shane McClanahan (7-4, 3.73 ERA). It’s an afternoon start, so maybe if it does go poorly you can enjoy your evening with something other than Orioles baseball.