Imagine your favorite band opening a concert with all their greatest hits, then lulling you to sleep with the tunes you skipped over the years, as the night goes on reminding you both why you love them but also why you sometimes keep them at arm's length.
The Orioles did that to 34,442 mostly adoring fans Friday at Camden Yards in Friday’s 15-8 loss to the Houston Astros. The Orioles worked them into a frenzy with four home runs before recording their first out at the plate, then gave the resulting lead right back in a game as deflating as the first inning was spectacular.
“It’s not ideal,” right fielder Mark Trumbo said. “That game could have gone a few different ways. Unfortunately, it got away from us.”
Adam Jones, first pitch, gone. Yet another single by left fielder Hyun Soo Kim, then Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Trumbo homered in quick succession. They batted around in the seven-hit inning, but managed little more, other than some small ball in the third inning and another home run by designated hitter Pedro Alvarez in the fifth inning.
No team had ever homered four times before recording an out before, according to STATS LLC. No team, then, has ever lost in such a fashion, because perhaps no team has had more trouble in an otherwise successful season syncing up a prolific offense with adequate pitching.
Thursday night’s six-homer outburst, plus Friday’s five, might obscure it. But with these Orioles, it’s always about pitching — the quality of it and the amount of that quality. Friday’s starter, left-hander Wade Miley, was supposed to supplement that. A nonwaiver trade deadline acquisition from the Seattle Mariners, Miley came with a controlled cost and a track record of at least being a useful major league starter.
Miley recorded just five outs Friday, all via strikeout, but allowed a leadoff home run to right fielder George Springer and imploded in a five-run second inning. He missed in the zone, and he missed out of it, and Houston hit everything. Miley screamed in disgust when rookie Alex Bregman doubled home the Astros’ fourth run, then walked off to boos.
He allowed six runs on six hits in 1 2/3 innings, bringing his ERA in four starts with the Orioles to 9.53 (18 earned runs in 17 innings).
“It’s frustrating,” Miley said. “It’s embarrassing for me. Obviously, I know I’m better than this. I’ve got to make some adjustments. We still have a month and a half to go. We are right there in this thing, but I’ve got to go out and give us a chance to. That’s just unacceptable, and I’ve got to be better.”
So instead of a team reaffirming that it's still a legitimate contender despite a set of mediocre West Coast road trips this summer and a deflating two-game sweep at the hands of the Boston Red Sox this week, the Orioles held a parade filled exclusively with their many attempts at rounding out a bona fide rotation.
The last Orioles pitcher to leave in such shame before Miley, to be treated so poorly by the fan base? That would be Ubaldo Jimenez, the man who followed Miley in relief after losing his starting job for the second time in three years despite being the team’s highest-paid pitcher.
Jimenez had a 6.89 ERA in 13 starts before losing his spot in the rotation in June, pitched badly upon his quick return to starting later that month, and has been used sparingly since. He did not accomplish much Friday, allowing three runs on three hits, with all the sympathy for the bloops that dropped in erased by the self-inflicted damage of four walks issued.
So enter Tyler Wilson, the rookie right-hander who won a job out of spring training and kept a spot in the rotation through July before the league caught up to him and his arm wore down.
Since rejoining the club for his second stint since that July demotion to Triple-A, Wilson has let four of the six runners he has inherited in his 5 1/3 innings score, plus seven of his own.
Call it Chekhov’s long reliever. A gun in the first act of a play, and it’ll go off by the end. A long reliever — or three — in the bullpen, and eventually you’ll need to use him. They needed all three Friday, as Vance Worley relieved Wilson.
“It's unusual,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I think maybe we're the only team that has three long guys. We used them all tonight.”
Unlike his two relief predecessors, Worley has fared well all season. It has been difficult lately, but he has been used in every role all season — starter, long reliever, short reliever — and pitched well in them.
No one was immune Friday. Worley allowed two runs on four hits and a home run in two innings before Zach Britton came on to get the last out.
“We had a lot of struggles pitching,” Showalter said. “I know [Miley] is frustrated, but he’s not the only one who struggled pitching tonight.”