But as Strop walked off the mound Wednesday afternoon after a two-run seventh-inning lead quickly turned into a four-run deficit, the boos from the announced 25,964 reached their loudest this season — and likely the loudest toward an Oriole since maligned former closer Kevin Gregg’s tenure.
“Not good,” Strop said. “Only thing I can say. I couldn’t do the job.”
After winning the first two games of the series, the Orioles had a chance to sweep the Angels for the first-time since 2010.
But in his first late-inning hold situation since returning from the disabled list Saturday, Strop allowed a season-high four runs in the Angels’ six-run seventh, which was sparked by No. 9 hitter Erick Aybar’s three-run triple that rapidly turned the momentum of the game.
Strop (0-3) pitched a scoreless mop-up inning in Tampa Bay on Saturday, but he hadn’t been in a pressure situation since returning from a strained lower back.
“Pete was one of those [key] guys for us last year and has been at times this year, and we hope that he will again,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “He pitched well and got physically fine. … It just wasn't there for him today.”
The Orioles (37-29), who had a chance to improve to a season-high 10 games over .500, were also looking to extend their winning streak to four heading into a four-game series against the American League East-leading Boston Red Sox, which begins tonight.
Strop inherited two baserunners with no outs in the seventh and a 4-2 lead. The first batter he faced, Hank Conger, hit a ball back near the mound that Strop deflected with his glove but couldn’t corral. Had the ball gone through, Strop said he thought it would have been a double-play ball.
“Can't fault him,” Showalter said. “[That’s] your first instinct, especially as athletic as he is. That's a 6-3 double play, and you've got a chance to get out of the inning, but we didn't.”
That brought Aybar to the plate with the bases loaded. With a 2-1 count, he laced a 96-mph fastball from Strop into the gap in right-center, plating three runs. Aybar then scored when second baseman Ryan Flaherty’s relay throw went past Manny Machado at third, giving the Angels a 6-4 lead.
“I was trying to go down and away, and I missed down and in,” Strop said. “A happy zone for lefties.”
Said Showalter: “He actually made a decent pitch to Aybar. He just went down and got it. But that's kind of the way it is when things aren't going your way.”
Three batters later, after Strop yielded a one-out walk to J.B. Shuck, he left an 0-2 changeup over the plate to Albert Pujols, who clubbed it into the left-field seats for his 11th homer of the season.
“It happened pretty quick,” left fielder Nate McLouth said. “Got the first two guys on, then we switched pitchers and next thing you know we're down a couple runs. They struck quick in that inning. … That was a tough inning for us.”
Strop has allowed multiple runs in three of his past four outings and has an ERA of 30.86 over that span of 2 1/3 innings. He’s also walked four batters in that span.
The most telling stat about Strop’s struggles might be that he’s allowed more than half of his inherited runners — seven of 13 — to score this season.
Strop, who has a 7.58 ERA, hasn’t been the same pitcher since last year, and Showalter has publicly feared that Strop pitching high-pressure innings in the World Baseball Classic would have a detrimental effect during the season. Strop pitched in six games over a 13-day span in March during the Dominican Republic’s title run.