Well, uh...at least Trey Mancini had a nice game.
The Orioles’ opener at Wrigley Field this afternoon went about as poorly as possible, with the Birds’ pitching staff getting wrecked for 10 runs while the O’s offense went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position en route to a Cubs blowout win. Mancini, the still-popular former Oriole, put up an excellent performance against his ex-teammates, doubling twice and reaching base in all four plate appearances. So, you know, good for him. I guess.
The second stop of the Cole Irvin Comeback Tour didn’t go nearly as well as the first. After returning from his months-long minor league exile with a triumphant outing against the Royals last week, Irvin ran into trouble against an all right-handed Cubs lineup this afternoon. Well, really, he only had one bad inning...but boy, was it ever bad.
Irvin entered the bottom of the third inning having retired all six batters he faced. And then, as if a switch flipped, he started throwing batting practice. The carnage began when rookie catcher Miguel Amaya crushed a hanging changeup 390 feet into the left-field seats for his second major league home run. Irvin seemed to have recovered, retiring the next two batters, before the Cubs teed off again. First, Dansby Swanson rocketed a 421-foot blast to left-center field on another changeup, and the next batter, dinger machine Christopher Morel, homered to nearly the same spot on — you guessed it! — a changeup. Maybe stop throwing that pitch, Cole. The sophomore sensation Morel has 12 homers in just 29 games.
Among Irvin’s many faults in his early-season stint, home runs weren’t really one of them. He had allowed only two in his first five games before this mess. But coughing up three dongs in one inning isn’t a great look for a guy trying to keep his grip on a major league rotation spot. Still, it was far from the worst inning that Orioles pitching would endure on this day, which is a sad fact.
Irvin rebounded for a scoreless fourth, but Brandon Hyde wasn’t interested in pressing his luck any further with the lefty. After Irvin surrendered a leadoff single in the fifth to turn over the lineup for a third time, Hyde removed him after just 68 pitches and four complete innings. Mike Baumann finished the fifth to keep his inherited runner stranded. Irvin will probably make another start simply because there are no better options right now, but it’s hard to feel much confidence in the southpaw.
The Orioles never really recovered from their early deficit, trying in vain to chip away against veteran right-hander Kyle Hendricks, who cruised through three scoreless innings to begin his afternoon. They did finally break through with a two-out rally in the fourth, with a Ryan O’Hearn double followed by an Austin Hays RBI single, and they tallied another in the fifth on Jorge Mateo’s run-scoring double to the left-field corner.
But down by one run, the O’s couldn’t find one more clutch hit to tie the score. Gunnar Henderson and Adley Rutschman were unable to deliver with Mateo in scoring position in the fifth. And in the sixth, against former AL Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer, an Anthony Santander double and a wild pitch put the tying run at third with just one out, but O’Hearn and Hays both struck out.
That missed opportunity seemed to take the air out of the Orioles, if the ensuing implosion in the bottom of the sixth was any indication. It was, to put it lightly, one of the single worst innings of pitching we’ve seen from the O’s this year. If you can even call it “pitching.” Unless you’re a glutton for punishment, feel free to skip the next three paragraphs or so.
No reliever was immune from the disaster that befell the Birds. Baumann began the inning and couldn’t throw strikes, walking both batters he faced, before giving way to Cionel Pérez, who, in a span of three batters, committed a balk, issued a walk, and coughed up a two-run single. The only out he recorded was handed to him on a sacrifice bunt. After Pérez faced his required three batters, Hyde pulled him for recently promoted right-hander Reed Garrett, making his second appearance for the Birds.
Poor Reed Garrett may not be long for the Orioles’ roster after today’s performance. He swiftly turned a 5-2 game into a 9-2 blowout, giving up RBI hits to Nico Hoerner, Morel, and Seiya Suzuki. Mercifully, the inning ended on a lineout by Mike Tauchman, the 10th batter of the frame. The total damage: six runs, four hits, three walks, and a whole lot of questions about the viability of the Orioles’ middle relief crew.
Hyde made Garrett his sacrificial lamb, running him back out there in the seventh to save the rest of the bullpen. A double, a walk, and an RBI infield hit later, the score was 10-2. If any Orioles fan was still watching the game at this point, I commend you. If I weren’t recapping the game, I’d have turned it off half an hour earlier.
From there, it was all over but the shouting. A meaningless Hays RBI single in the eighth made it 10-3, but the O’s got no closer, going down 1-2-3 in the ninth to seal an ugly loss. Let us never speak of it again.