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Orioles pitching and defense disappoint again in 9-5 loss to Red Sox

The O’s dropped their opening series in Boston, looking little like a team that intends to take a step forward this season.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Boston Red Sox
It wouldn’t be an Orioles game without a dropped fly ball in the outfield.
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Remember how the 2022 Orioles had that really cool and surprisingly successful season? And they were like, “We’re ready for liftoff!” but then they went through the whole offseason and just...didn’t do anything about their obvious need for pitching? They were like, “We see all those free agent pitchers who could really help us, but...nah. We got this.”

Perhaps they do not, in fact, got this.

The Orioles coughed up nine runs for the third consecutive game, dropping the rubber match in Boston, 9-5. It’s only been one series, but we’ve seen the worst-case scenario for the Orioles pitching so far — thanks in no small part to an unexpectedly atrocious defense — and it might not improve on the club’s upcoming trip to Texas, which scored 27 runs in its first two games.

After using seven relievers in last night’s unthinkable loss, the Orioles badly needed an extended outing from Cole Irvin in his O’s debut this afternoon. So it was not exactly a great development when Irvin labored through 32 pitches in the first inning, victimized by some weak hits and an ever-changing strike zone. The Sox loaded the bases against him right away on two singles and a walk, but Irvin, to his credit, limited the damage to just one run. That scored on Masataka Yoshida’s groundout to first, but Irvin picked up big strikeouts of Adam Duvall and Christian Arroyo to escape.

As the game went on, Irvin got more efficient, but he didn’t get much more effective, coughing up a run apiece in the second (on an Enrique Hernández homer) and the third (on an Alex Verdugo RBI single following a Duvall double). Irvin didn’t toss his first scoreless frame until the fourth.

The Orioles’ offense, meanwhile, didn’t get off to the blazing start it had in the first two games of the season, as Tanner Houck proved to be a tougher opponent than Corey Kluber or Chris Sale. The 2017 Sox first-round pick carved the Birds’ lineup to pieces for the first four innings, with more strikeouts (four) than baserunners (three).

In the fifth, though, those pesky Birds bats came to life at last. Austin Hays’ one-out single brought up new Oriole Adam Frazier, a player whose signing with the O’s elicited many fan reactions along the lines of, “Huh? Why?” Adam is having none of your criticism, you guys. He jumped on a hanging Houck cutter and walloped it into the right-field seats for his first home run as an Oriole, shaving the deficit to just one.

Just two batters later, it was Cedric Mullins’ turn. The O’s center fielder smacked his second homer in as many games, a game-tying shot to right-center. There we go! Brand new ballgame! The O’s are alive! All the momentum is on their side!

...aaaand it’s gone. In a matter of minutes, the Orioles were trailing again, as Irvin failed to get an out in the bottom of the fifth. He was attacked for three quick singles — none of them especially hard hit, but singles all the same — with Yoshida’s bloop to center plating Rafael Devers to put Boston back in front, 4-3. Irvin was done after 88 pitches.

Bryan Baker, pitching for the first time since his disastrous Opening Day appearance, only added fuel to the fire. He uncorked a wild pitch to move both runners into scoring position, and they both scored on a single by Duvall, who I’m sure the Orioles are tired of seeing at this point. Both runs were charged to Irvin, who gave up six runs in four innings. The Orioles’ three starting pitchers so far this year have allowed — in order — four runs, five runs, and six runs. I don’t like the way this is trending! Good luck in Texas tomorrow, Kyle Bradish.

The O’s again tried to make a game of it in the seventh, with a Mullins two-run single off former Oriole Richard Bleier bringing them back within one. But every time the Birds rallied, the Sox responded in kind. They plated two in the home half of the seventh, putting a pair of runners on base against Keegan Akin and bringing them both home against Mike Baumann. Baumann then allowed a run of his own in the eighth on a Verdugo RBI single. We’re just three games into the season and the only O’s relievers who haven’t been scored upon are Danny Coulombe and Logan Gillaspie. Just like we all predicted.

Baumann helped the fatigued O’s bullpen by working 1.2 innings, but threw 43 pitches to do so. It seems almost a foregone conclusion that the O’s will option him to the minors tomorrow and bring up a fresh arm. Sorry, Big Mike. Such is the reality of being a player on the roster bubble.

Have I mentioned that the Orioles, once again, played defense as if they’ve never played baseball before? In the fifth inning, left fielder Terrin Vavra and shortstop Gunnar Henderson miscommunicated over who would catch a shallow fly ball, and Henderson ended up dropping it for an error. It didn’t lead to any runs, but add it to the pile of embarrassing misplays involving O’s outfielders. And in the eighth, third baseman Ramón Urías caught a line drive and tried to double off a runner at second, but sailed the ball into short right field to advance him to third just before the Verdugo RBI hit.

The game finished by a 9-5 score, and the Orioles — who were a dropped fly ball away from going for a sweep today — instead limped out of Fenway with an opening series loss, and with a truckload of concerns about their pitching and defense.

Well, at least we’re only 1/54th of the way through the season. I’m just not sure whether that’s cause for optimism or cause for concern.