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Orioles bullpen challenges continue in 8-4 setback to Yankees

Cedric Mullins committed a mental mistake that put the O’s in the hole and the bullpen made sure they stayed there

Baltimore Orioles v New York Yankees
This picture brought to you by Bryan Baker and Nick Vespi, neither of whom was the photographer.
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Over the last several weeks, the Orioles have been on a quest to see how many ways you can fail to score runs in a baseball game. It’s been a deep commitment, one that continued on Independence Day, as the team dropped an 8-4 game to the Yankees to fall to 7-11 over that same stretch of games. It’s not fun right now, especially since in many of these games, including this one, the bullpen has gotten involved to put close games out of reach entirely.

The rules of scoring a baseball game dictate that one person on the losing team is saddled with the loss. Kyle Gibson bears that burden for the Orioles on this occasion. A cursory glance at his stat line for the game does not give any reason to doubt this, as Gibson was charged with four earned runs in a six inning outing that saw him walk four batters. When a starting pitcher does this, he will find himself receiving a loss a lot of the time.

Trouble began immediately for Gibson. He walked the first batter he saw, Anthony Rizzo, on four pitches. The Gameday strike zone suggested one of these pitches was actually a strike, but who’s counting? We can see what the Ump Scorecards Twitter account says tomorrow. What we can also see is that Gibson surrendered a home run to Gleyber Torres after this walk, putting the Orioles in a 2-0 hole.

The Baltimore Sun’s Nathan Ruiz observed after the homer that Torres went deep on Gibson’s cutter that the Orioles lead all of baseball in home runs allowed on the cutter. Possible answers to this could be to get better pitchers, throw better cutters, or throw fewer cutters.

Gibson rebounded, for a couple of innings at least, until the bottom of the fourth. That inning saw him start off with another walk, this time to Yankees cleanup hitter Jake Bauers (?). The first pitch to the next guy, Harrison Bader, hit Bader in the wrist. Stop giving out free baserunners! A productive groundout advanced the runners, allowing Isiah Kiner-Falefa to collect an RBI with a sacrifice fly. The Yankees led, 3-0.

Through four innings, the game had the vibe that the Orioles were going to be shut out. The only Oriole to reach base earlier than the fifth inning was Ryan O’Hearn, who never advanced past second base after a leadoff double in the second.

Fortunes briefly changed for the Orioles in the top of the fifth inning. The shutout was broken up when recent ex-Yankee Aaron Hicks hit a solo home run. The Yankees unfaithful in the stands let out a bunch of boos as Hicks rounded the bases, and cheered unusually loudly when the home run ball was tossed back on the field. In a better version of the game for Orioles fans, this would be the enduring, happy memory. That’s not what we got today.

They did still tie the game up in the fifth. Following the Hicks homer, rookie Jordan Westburg delivered a double, which had him on base as Adam Frazier took advantage of Yankees starter Clarke Schmidt throwing his own poor cutter. Frazier launched the pitch into the right field bleachers and the game was tied.

It was not tied for very long. Looking for the mythical shutdown inning, Gibson walked .252 OBP catcher Jose Trevino to start off the bottom of the fifth. Come on, man. The runner was wiped out as Rizzo grounded into a double play. What did Gibson do? Walked the next dude! That was Torres. You might think this sounds dumb, and it is, but it’s not as dumb as what happened next.

Giancarlo Stanton ran a 3-2 count, which with two outs allowed Torres to have a running start on any pitch. Stanton hit a ground ball that had an expected batting average of .320. This snuck into center field anyway, and was fielded on the run by Cedric Mullins. Mullins threw the ball back into the infield with no particular urgency. This was a problem because Torres actually never stopped running, and when Mullins tossed it in to second base rather than aiming for the cutoff man, Torres was able to score with no throw.

The Yankee Stadium scorer, seemingly a fan of Stanton advancing from tied for 309th with Hall of Famer Ernie Lombardi to tied for 308th with Home Run Baker on the career RBI list (991), assessed no error on this play, so the fourth run was charged as earned to Gibson. That was tough luck for Gibson, but again, overall he didn’t deserve much better, even if he pitched a scoreless sixth and emptied the tank to 104 pitches to try to reduce the chances of another bullpen problem.

Another bullpen problem happened anyway. Nick Vespi, summoned for the seventh, recorded one out before giving up a dinger to Trevino. That guy again! This was just the catcher’s fourth homer in 156 plate appearances. That’s still a better homers per plate appearance rate than Ramón Urías.

Vespi could not complete the inning. After a Torres double, the dugout put an intentional pass to Stanton and yoinked Vespi from the game in favor of Bryan Baker. Styled by one Orioles beat writer as “The Outmaker,” Baker did not live up to this moniker as he often does not, immediately walking DJ LeMahieu to load the bases. The bases loaded chance went to Bader, who got the victory in the Bader-Baker matchup by delivering a double that scored two runs.

The 7-3 lead was all that New York would need, though Bruce Zimmermann generously gifted them an eighth inning run with a fielding error on a comebacker. That goes as an unearned run even though it was his error.

The Orioles got men on second and third with none out in the ninth after Westburg hit a single that was followed by Urías delivering an automatic double. Seldom-hitting catcher James McCann collected an RBI groundout to score the fourth Orioles run and ruin my prewritten recap segments that were snarky about the O’s commitment to not scoring more than three runs. (It’s happened 11 times in the last 18 games.) That was as close as it got.

This was the sixth Orioles loss in the last seven games in addition to the 11th in their last 18. Their edge over the Yankees in the AL Wild Card standings is down to just two games, which could still be erased over the final two games of this series. They’ll be back at it tomorrow with Dean Kremer trying to get his ERA back below 5. As of this writing, it’s TBA starting for the Yankees in the 7:05 Wednesday contest.