The Orioles of late have been playing good baseball. They’re winning more often than they’re losing, they show some fight even in the losses, and the general feeling around the team is good. But even teams who are competent, or approaching competence, will have days like today. Days when the hitters don’t hit, one bad inning of pitching sinks the boat, and the game outcome feels settled very early on.
Austin Voth started today’s game for the Orioles in front of many friends and family members. Voth grew up in the area, and probably hoped for a better performance in front of his home town crowd. And while he did struggle today, it wasn’t quite as bad as it appeared. He did have some bad luck.
Voth isn’t a starting pitcher, he is a relief pitcher who has been pressed into the starting role due to the ongoing issues with the Orioles’ rotation. So for him to go three innings was about expected. He struggled in the first, giving up a single and walking a batter, but got out of the jam. In the second, that bad luck hit.
With one out in the second, Abraham Toro doubled to centerfield. Voth got a ground ball on the next batter, but third baseman Jonathan Araúz couldn’t make the play and Adam Frazier reached on the error. Before Araúz could stop feeling bad about that error, he made another one. Sam Haggarty hit a soft ball to third that Araúz never should have thrown to first. But he did, and he made a bad throw that allowed Toro to score. As I said, bad luck for Voth.
But wait, there’s more! JP Crawford hit a ball up the first base side that died before a play could be made. Catcher Adley Rutschman stared down at the ball, trying to will it to go foul. But it did not. It stopped just inside the foul line for an RBI single. Rookie Julio Rodriguez then hit a sac fly for the third run before Voth got out of the inning.
Voth had a very nice 1-2-3 inning and then turned the ball over to Nick Vespi. Vespi, of course, is known for making 16 appearances at triple-A this year without allowing an earned run. Since being called up to the majors, Vespi has appeared in nine games and has given up just a single run, back on June 16th against the Blue Jays.
We all knew that Vespi’s incredible run of 25 games, one earned run, wouldn’t continue. He was always going to allow some runs to help bring that 0.79 major league ERA up to something a bit more typical. And well, friends, it happened today. Maybe a little more than we expected, though. Poor guy just couldn’t get anyone out.
The first three batters Vespi faced went: double, single, double. That resulted in one run, then the first (and only) out Vespi got came via a sacrifice fly that made the score 5-1. Then stepped Julio Rodriguez, who absolutely destroyed the 84 mph slider Vespi gave him. The ball landed 431 feet away for a two-run homer. A single and a double later and there were runners on second and third, still with just one out. That’s where it ended for Vespi.
His replacement, Bryan Baker, didn’t offer much relief. Vespi’s fifth run scored on a wild pitch; his sixth on a sacrifice fly. When the inning ended and the dust cleared, Vespi’s once sparking 0.79 ERA sat at 5.40.
The bullpen got its act together after that, but once the other team has scored nine runs the horse is pretty much out of the barn. Baker went on to pitch two more scoreless innings, Dillon Tate pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, and Jorge López got some work in with a scoreless eighth.
On offense, there are really only two innings worth mentioning. In the third, when the Orioles were only losing by three, Ryan Mountcastle had his first of two hits with an RBI double. It scored Anthony Santander, who had led off the inning with a single. In the fifth, Jorge Mateo singled and Cedric Mullins walked ahead of Trey Mancini. Mancini’s double to left knocked in both runners to give us some momentary hope.
They put runners on in each of the remaining innings, but could never score again. A Mountcastle single and a Rougned Odor walk were wasted in the sixth. In the seventh, Mullins walked again, but was erased on a double play ball. Mountcastle walked in the eighth. In the ninth, Mullins had his second hit of the game but was stranded.
It was a very good game on offense for Mullins (two singles, two walks) and Mountcastle (single, double, walk). Mullins also made an incredible catch in the outfield. And aside from one horrible showing from Vespi, the pitching wasn’t awful either. But none of that was enough to make the difference.
The Orioles have lost their first series since June 3-5 against the Guardians. They have tomorrow off before traveling to Minnesota to kick off the month of July. They finish June with a record of 14-12, and I will take it.