There have been two big Tyler Wells trends in the 2023 season. He does not allow many baserunners, and he does allow a lot of home runs. On Wednesday afternoon against the Rays, one of these trends held true. Unfortunately for the Orioles, it was the “allows a lot of home runs” trend and not the other one. Add to it another poor outing from the bullpen and a lackluster day for the offense and the O’s dropped the finale of the two-game set, 7-2.
This was one of those games that was effectively over after one bad, early inning, not that this was guaranteed at the time. For the Orioles and Wells, that bad inning was the bottom of the second inning. Leading off the inning for the Rays was Randy Arozarena. He homered on a top of the zone fastball thrown by Wells.
The Oriole-killer Arozarena hitting a home run off of the homer-prone Wells was the kind of thing that felt inevitable before the game, and in this case, the inevitable happened. Less inevitable was the next batter, Isaac Paredes, also homering to give the Rays a 2-0 lead after the back-to-back jacks. These were the 17th and 18th home runs allowed by Wells this season, the 14th hit by Arozarena, and the 13th by Paredes.
The Baltimore Sun’s Jacob Calvin Meyer observed that Wells’s home runs have largely been solo shots: 12 of 18 came with the bases empty, with the other six having one man on base. If you’ve got to give up homers, that’s the way to do it. After allowing those two homers, Meyer added that 24 of the 31 runs surrendered by Wells have scored by home run. It’s a lot.
The problem for Wells on Wednesday wasn’t entirely the homers. He also failed himself on defense. This started right after the two homers, as the next Rays batter, Manuel Margot, hit a grounder to the mound that Wells muffed as it reached him. There was no good reason to miss it, but miss it he did, and Margot was on base with an error. Taylor Walls soon joined him as Wells lost the Wells/Walls battle by giving up a walk.
A fly ball hit to Aaron Hicks for the first out led to both Rays runners advancing. There was nothing to do about Margot getting to third, but as Jim Palmer observed on the broadcast, Jorge Mateo was not in place to cut off the throw, which allowed the trailing runner to also tag and get into scoring position.
Walls being on second base turned out to be important on the very next play. Rays center fielder José Siri chopped a grounder into the carpet that could only be fielded by Wells. By the time Wells fielded the ball, there was nothing to do except hold on to the ball.
Siri was always going to reach first base. That was a single. Margot was always going to score. Wells, for whatever reason, arrived at a different judgment on his chances to throw out Siri and decided to throw to first. In throwing to first, he made what’s going to be one of the worst throws you’ll ever see a pitcher make to first. The ball sailed into right field. Walls scored on the error.
The rules for earned runs and errors being what they are, these two runs were not charged to Wells’s ER tally, even though he was the one to commit the errors. He bounced back from this poor inning to get through five with only the two earned runs (but two more unearned) on his ledger. Wells allowed four hits and three walks in those five innings. He won’t keep leading MLB in WHIP with many more outings like this, but for today his lead is safe.
With Wells coming out after five innings, the weak part of the Orioles bullpen was exposed again. As distressed as you may have been to see the performance of Bryan Baker and Mike Baumann yesterday, consider this reality: There are relievers the Orioles trust less than those guys, because they’re worse pitchers than those guys, and that’s who comes into a game like this.
Fresh call-up Logan Gillaspie entered for the sixth inning. Ideally, he would have pitched at least an inning, maybe two. Gillaspie retired one of the three batters faced and was yanked from the game as soon as he hit the minimum. Though Keegan Akin dodged the trouble there in the sixth, he stayed on for the seventh and had problems there, giving up two runs thanks to allowing three singles in the inning. Bummer.
Just to stick one more let-down into this game, the Orioles had Cole Irvin pitch the bottom of the eighth inning. The fifth starter spot can be skipped this turn around since the O’s have an off day tomorrow and also had an off day on Monday. It seems the O’s are taking that opportunity. Irvin managed to allow three baserunners over the course of pitching one inning, which led to a seventh Rays run scoring.
These assorted add-on runs did not affect the outcome of the game, because the Orioles offense was kept in check by rookie starter Taj Bradley. Making his tenth career start, Bradley set a new career high in innings pitched by cruising through six innings against the O’s lineup. They got just three hits during Bradley’s six innings, and struck out eight times. If it makes you feel better, Bradley did not set a career high in strikeouts. No, it didn’t make me feel any better either.
The lone run scored by the Orioles against Bradley was thanks to Ramón Urías making some of his best contact of the season for a third inning solo home run. This was just Urías’s third homer of the season; he’s hit one homer for every 55 at-bats this year. That’s not great. Gunnar Henderson added a solo home run of his own, a ninth inning homer off of struggling Rays reliever Zack Littell.
This 11th dinger of the year for Henderson brought him into a three-way tie - with Anthony Santander and Ryan Mountcastle - for the Orioles team lead. The Rays have five players with more home runs than that. Henderson had a multi-hit game out of the leadoff spot, so at least that’s something.
Losing the finale of this little two-game set drops the Orioles to five games back of the Rays for the AL East once again. They are 45-28. It is a good record still. It continues to feel like improvements will need to be made in order to maintain something close to the current pace of winning.
Next up for the Orioles is a trip back home to Baltimore, where they’ll welcome the thus-far underwhelming Mariners for a three-game weekend series starting Friday night at 7:05. Kyle Gibson is scheduled to start the opener for the O’s. The Rays will start a four-game set against the Royals on Thursday night. Probably not much chance for the Orioles to gain any ground this weekend, but plenty of chance for them to lose more of it.