Facing an ever-shifting cast of Houston starting pitchers over the past three days, it took the Orioles’ bats a little time to warm up in taking two of three from the Astros.
Against right-hander Lucas Harrell, left-hander Brett Oberholtzer and right-hander Jordan Lyles -- who had five years of experience combined entering this season -- the Orioles were shut out in the first three innings of each game and went a combined 4-for-31 with a walk over those nine innings.
While the Orioles came back to win two of those games, they were befuddled by Harrell for the second time this year, baffled by Oberholtzer in his first career start, and stymied by Lyles early. After being scheduled to face two established starters in right-hander Bud Norris and left-hander Erik Bedard to begin in the series, the Orioles instead faced some lesser-known commodities.
The stature of the Astros pitchers shouldn’t have been a factor in the Orioles offense anyway. When speaking after the game about newly acquired right-hander Norris’ first start, manager Buck Showalter alluded to the fact that with the wealth of information available today, it’s easy to learn anything about anyone.
“Unfamiliar, that really doesn’t happen much anymore,” Showalter said. “You do so much background work, nobody, there are no secrets in baseball. I don’t feel like we’re unfamiliar with him. There’s obviously, until you get somebody, and we all have warts, we all have dents in our armor, me obviously, as evidenced by today, but I don’t look at it as unfamiliar in today’s game.”
When the Orioles finally got rolling against Harrell and Lyles, they did it in different ways. On Tuesday, the Orioles took advantage of Harrell’s tendency to walk batters, loading the bases on three walks before getting two runs across. Later, first baseman Chris Davis hit a go-ahead two-run home run.
Thursday night, it was three singles, an error and a sacrifice fly to plate three runs in the fifth, and four straight singles in the sixth to score two more. Davis’ solo blast in the seventh added extra insurance.
Two comeback wins with a blowout loss sandwiched between a blowout loss to the team with the worst record in baseball might seem unusual, but for Showalter — as he consistently reiterates — it’s part of a long season.
“There’s such an ebb and flow to the season with the emotions you go through,” Showalter said. “If we knew all those answers, then we’d never lose a game and we’d never not get a hit and would always throw a breaking ball for a strike behind in the count.”