Why not? This Baltimore fanbase has already endured so many indignities this season. So why not another horrible outing by a starting pitcher, an early-innings bullpen collapse, another series sweep, and another loss in an ignominious streak that’s reached 15 games in a row?
As an Orioles fan, I’m basically punch-drunk at this point in the year (a lot of us are), but frankly, I feel like you need to be somewhat anesthetized to get through this slop of a season.
Thursday’s defeat falls squarely on the shoulders of the unreliable Jorge López, albeit today was unusual for him since he looked seriously off all game: López’s fastball velocity, which ordinarily clocks in around 95-96 mph, was down as low as 88 mph at one point. He lasted just two innings and truthfully looked even worse than the four runs he allowed. Here’s López’s first inning in schematic form:
First pitch: leadoff double.
Second pitch: hit batter.
Four pitches later: Nelson Cruz single to load the bases.
Six more pitches: RBI walk.
(Mound visit from Orioles manager Brandon Hyde and trainer Brian Ebel to see what the heck was up with López)
Next batter: Ji-Man Choi gifts the Orioles a GIDP to score a second run.
Next: bounceout. Thank you (for once), Randy Arozarena.
López’s velo was still way down in the second, and with two outs, he walked cheery utility man Brett Phillips, then allowed a two-run home run to Brandon Lowe, a .238 hitter who always seems to look like Joey Votto when the Orioles are in town. It was such a struggle out there for the O’s starter that MASN’s Scott Garceau and Jim Palmer started to debate whether something was wrong with him (Garceau) or whether he wasn’t trying hard enough (Palmer).
For what it’s worth, after the game Brandon Hyde said López is fine physically, and is “just working through some things right now.” I have no idea what that means, but it sounds like López may need some time off. Again: why not? Why not more shitty news for the Orioles’ completely, unacceptably bad pitching staff? Could they actually get worse?
With López out by the third inning, that meant an appearance by the veteran Fernando Abad, who carried a 9.82 ERA in 3.2 innings in with him today and a 17.18 ERA out of it. Abad pitched a problem-free third, but hit rocky shoals by the fourth inning. Why not? The Orioles were already down 4-0. Abad’s fourth inning: Single, Walk, Flyout, Walk. Then a call to the bullpen, and in came Marcos Diplán, who’s been really good for the team so far. But badness is contagious, I guess, so Diplán allowed an RBI walk and a two-run single to Ji-Man Choi to make it 7-0 Rays. “Wow,” said Jim Palmer as the two runners crossed the plate. I know.
All the while, four innings went by, and the Orioles had failed to scratch Tampa rookie Shane McClanahan, whose 20th career start went off pretty much without a hitch. Still, the bats were not completely lifeless today. The Birds threatened against McClanahan in the second, with a Pedro Severino one-out double; again in the third, when Jorge Mateo and Cedric Mullins both singled; and again in the fourth, with a deep warning track fly from Ryan Mountcastle, who was scorching balls all game.
The O’s finally broke through in the fifth when Ramón Urías led off with a double, was moved over by a Jorge Mateo groundout, and scored on a Richie Martin single. 7-1. Ha, take that! But that was all that McClanahan would allow. The Rays rookie finished with a line of 5.0 IP, 5 H, 8 K, and just the one run.
From that point forward, this game had that familiar dreary feeling where the bulk of the action was over and you knew that the Orioles weren’t digging themselves out of this hole. The Rays brought in lefty reliever Dietrich Enns to pitch the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings, and another lefty, Adam Conley, for the ninth. The O’s managed a Mountcastle single, a Mateo double, and a Ramón Urías ninth-inning FUHR with the game far out of reach.
With so many soul-crushing losses in a row, we might have to start adding a “Silver Linings” header at the end of game recaps. One silver lining I could see today was that a few good Orioles who may be with the team next year continue to be good:
- Jorge Mateo had two hits today to keep an 11-game hit streak going. (He did ruin a potential rally in the third by getting picked off—you’re fast, we get it! Please don’t do stupid things on the basepaths!—but he unquestionably brings life to this offense.) Said Jim Palmer of Mateo: “He’s becoming the man. Very, very impressive. He puts the bat on the ball.”
- Cedric Mullins had another hit today. He’s still good.
- Richie Martin hit an RBI single, continuing to outplay lowly expectations.
- Ramón Urías doubled, scored a run, and homered in the ninth.
- Ryan Mountcastle singled and crushed two balls to the warning track. He is slugging 1.043 in August. (That’s not a typo. His OPS for the month is 1.523.)
- The back half of the O’s bullpen was actually OK: Marcos Diplán kept his 0.00 ERA intact (even if he did his bullpen-mate, Abad, zero favors). Cole Sulser escaped the sixth with just a walk allowed. And Konner Wade looked pretty nifty, striking out four Rays in a perfect seventh and eighth.
That’s about it for nice things. For now, the O’s have a lock on next year’s No. 1 draft. And football season is starting soon. In the meantime, enjoy a pleasant evening, and try to put the Orioles out of your mind.