There is no team in MLB that has allowed more runs than the Washington Nationals. No team has a worse run differential. Only one team has a worse winning percentage. These facts do not seem to have penetrated the awareness of the Orioles hitters, who stunk up the stadium on Tuesday night, picking up just four hits along the way to a 3-0 loss at the hands of their southern neighbors.
Had the Orioles scored any runs at all, even just one, this was a game where you could lament how if they only played a little bit better, they might have had a chance to win. Jordan Lyles became the first O’s starting pitcher in nearly a month to record an out in the seventh inning, rebounding from some bad fielding and bad pitching in the early innings to get through 6.1 innings with only two runs allowed. That’s good! There was just... no hitting to go with it.
Something stupid happened leading to each of the Nationals runs to cross the plate. This was the case from the very first pitch that Lyles threw in the game. Nats infielder César Hernández pulled Lyles’s pitch towards the grounds crew shed in right field. Anthony Santander was the nearest fielder.
With a 7:05 first pitch on the longest day of the year, right field was still bathed in sunlight. Santander took a horrible route on what may have been a catchable ball. Statcast’s expected batting average deemed this batted ball as having a 37% chance of being a hit. This was one of only five hits allowed by Lyles in his 6.1 innings. Hernández was on second base just like that.
After two groundouts, Hernández stood on third base. Lyles pitched to former Oriole Nelson Cruz, who Dan Duquette deemed as being not worth giving a fourth year on his contract following the 2014 season. This is the eighth season since that determination. Cruz is down but not out this year. Anyway, he ripped a double off a hanging Lyles pitch that easily scored Hernández, providing the Nationals with the only run they would need to win the game.
This was not the end of the dumb things that occurred. Only an inning later, Lyles was again the receiver of some fielder-related bad luck. A line drive that again may have been catchable (xBA of .230) fell in when Santander seemed to hesitate as Cedric Mullins approached to back him up in case of an unfortunate bounce. The batter, Nats catcher Keibert Ruiz, ran for second base on the play. Santander threw in to try to get Ruiz, but it was a bad throw. Ruiz was safe at second when he might have been out two ways.
Lyles did not help his own cause by issuing free passes to the #7 and #8 hitters in the Nationals lineup, Yadiel Hernández and Maikel Franco. Yes, it’s the Franco who was designated for assignment by the Orioles last year. This loaded the bases with one out.
Ah, but don’t worry, Lyles got a bouncer right at Rougned Odor. We’ve seen the Orioles defense turn many double plays this year. They lead the American League in double plays turned by dozens. On this occasion, Odor’s throw was high and pulled Jorge Mateo off the bag. Mateo’s attempt to still get an out at first was late.
Instead of an inning-ending double play, zero outs were recorded and a second run scored. It goes as an earned run on Lyles’s tally because of the “you can’t assume the double play” dictate followed by official scorers. This is sometimes very dumb, including this time.
Lyles could probably try not walking the #7 and #8 hitters next time, and he could also try not giving up twelve batted balls that had exit velocity of 95 miles per hour or greater. Despite his bad luck, he was also lucky to only allow the two runs.
While all this was going on, the Orioles offense was absent against Nats starter Erick Fedde. Did it matter that Fedde entered with a 4.88 ERA? No. Would you have known that Fedde had not pitched six innings, or allowed fewer than three runs in a start, since May 25? You would not have.
The Orioles got Fedde’s pitch count up enough to chase him after six innings, but that was it. They got just two hits while Fedde was in the game, with no runner getting past first base.
An inning apiece against three Nats relievers did not help much. Only two Orioles batters reached base after Fedde was out. Adley Rutschman legged out a double in the seventh, showing off his 52nd percentile sprint speed. It’s fantastic for a catcher, perhaps almost as fantastic as his hair. This came with two outs. Odor, batting next, could not capitalize, swinging through three elevated fastballs after working a 2-0 count.
In the ninth, Ryan Mountcastle hit a hard line drive that ricocheted off of Franco’s glove and into left field. The official scorer initially ruled this as an error, an obviously incorrect decision that was reversed following the game. Mountcastle is now credited with the single he deserves. As far as the run column in the scoreboard was concerned, it doesn’t matter how he got on base. He did not score after reaching base with two outs. Rutschman hit a game-ending lineout to complete the flat effort.
If there’s one bit of silver lining here, it’s that at least the Orioles only needed to use two pitchers here. With the score close, manager Brandon Hyde went to multi-inning reliever Keegan Akin to deliver a little length.
Akin went the rest of the way, allowing just one hit over 2.2 innings. This one hit was also dumb. Nats #9 hitter Lane Thomas, a righty, sliced a fly ball to the opposite field. At Camden Yards, that’s the short right field porch. Thomas had elevated the ball enough to clear the fence. The xBA on this sucker was .080. Again, if the Orioles offense had done anything at all, this, like the other misfortune, would loom larger. There can be little cause for complaint when scoring zero runs.
This short two-game set will conclude on Tuesday night, with Tyler Wells set to pitch for the Orioles and Patrick Corbin for the Nats. Corbin’s ERA is more than two runs higher than Fedde’s. The offense needs to show up for this 7:05 affair, or else this series will be the June version of when the Orioles got our hopes up a little bit only to get swept by the Tigers in May. Don’t do that to us again, Orioles! Thanks.