After suffering a deflating defeat on Tuesday night, the Orioles seemed to be suffering from a post-loss hangover Wednesday night against the Astros. The O’s fell behind early, and the bats could never get enough going in their 8-2 loss to Houston.
Before the Orioles’s lineup got their first at-bats, Baltimore found themselves in a 2-0 hole. After hitting the game-winning grand slam on Tuesday, Kyle Tucker got the scoring started Wednesday with a two-run homer. It looked like the O’s would have an immediate response of their own, as Adley Rutschman led off the bottom of the 1st with a bloop triple down the left field line. However, Gunnar Henderson and Anthony Santander struck out to put all the pressure on Ryan O’Hearn to get the run home. The Orioles’ first baseman battled against Houston starter Crisitan Javier, but on the 10th pitch of the at-bat he ultimately lost that battle—flying out to left field to strand Adley.
That became a running theme of the Orioles throughout the night, as they failed to capitalize on scoring opportunities. Down three, the Orioles got two on with two outs in the 3rd only for O’Hearn to again come up empty with a fly ball to right. Then in the 8th, now down five, the O’s loaded the bases with only one out. Austin Hays couldn’t get the job done as he flew out on a shallow ball to right field. Jordan Westburg then came up looking to be a hero, but could only muster a ground ball back to the pitcher—ending the inning and leaving the bases load.
On another night, Hays might have been the hero in an Orioles win. The left field drove home the Orioles only two runs of the game when he launched a two-run, opposite field home run to right in the 4th. That homer brought the O’s within a run at 3-2, but they never could get any closer and the Astros tacked on plenty of insurance runs late.
Hays is for ̶h̶o̶r̶s̶e̶s̶ homers pic.twitter.com/89NdEEXZK7— Baltimore Orioles (@Orioles) August 10, 2023
While starter Jack Flaherty’s first home start in Camden Yards didn’t exactly go to plan, it was by no means bad. In some ways, Flaherty was a bit unlucky throughout his five innings.Jose Altuve led off the game with a single that landed just in front of a charging Hays in left field. Then, with two outs in the first, Flaherty threw a good slider just off the outside corner to Tucker, but he was able to pull it over the right center fence for a homer. In the 2nd, José Abreu’s leadoff single only had an xBA of .220 but snuck up the middle for a hit. Later, with runners on first and second, Altuve snuck a hard ground ball just past Gunnar Henderson at short to bring home Abreu—giving Houston a 3-0 lead.
From there things settled down somewhat for Flaherty. After throwing 52 pitches through the first two innings, he worked a 1-2-3 inning in the 3rd on only nine pitches. To start the 4th Flaherty gave up two hard hit balls, one that Gunnar snagged on a diving play at short and the other outfielder Mauricio Dubón bounced up the middle for a single. However, Flaherty came back to strikeout catcher Martín Maldonado and Altuve to put up another scoreless frame.
Like his first start with the Orioles, Flaherty worked in and then out of trouble in his last inning Wednesday. Alex Bregman led off the inning with a double rocketed down the line into the right field corner. After getting Yordan Alvarez to ground out back to the mound, the O’s chose to walk their new nemesis in Tucker. Then after setting down outfielder Chas McCormick on strikes, the umpires ruled that an inside fastball hit Abreu—a call the Orioles challenged but was upheld upon review. However, Flaherty did not fold under the pressure, striking out shortstop Jeremy Peña to leave the base loaded and finish off his evening.
The bullpen looked to keep the Orioles in the game, and through their first two innings of work they did. Newest Oriole James Webb made his Baltimore debut in the 6th, and preceded to strikeout the side. Cionel Pérez then took over in the 7th, facing the heart of the Astros lineup. Although Bregman reached on a lead off single up the middle, Pérez still faced the minimum—K’ing Alvarez and then getting Tucker to ground into an inning ending double play.
However, as the Orioles bats went silent against the Houston pen, the O’s relievers finally faltered. Shintaro Fujinami took over on the mound in the top of the 8th, and almost gave up a HR to McCormick, only for Hays to rob the homer in front of the Orioles bullpen.
After getting Abreu to fly out to center, Fuji seemed to completely lose control over his pitches. He walked the Astros 7, 8 and 9 hitters to load the bases for Altuve. At the point, Branond Hyde lifted him for Mike Baummann, but the towering right hander could do no better. He gave up singles to Altuve and Bregman as the Astros scored four runs and grew their lead to 7-2. Baumann came back out for the 9th inning and gave up another run, but at the point the game already seemed beyond reach.
The loss means that the Orioles will be playing on Thursday needing a win to keep their streak of 75 series with being swept alive. History suggests that they’ll do just that, as the O’s have only lost three games in a row twice all season. Still, Birdland’s faith in that history sure would be a lot less shaken had the O’s put up a better effort on Wednesday night.