After nine weeks of the Orioles playing bad baseball, the third full month of the season began Friday night with the club continuing to build its new identity – as a team that can’t score enough to win and can’t pitch or play defense well enough to overcome that major flaw.
The Orioles’ 4-1 loss to the New York Yankees was their sixth straight as they entered a gauntlet of 10 of 12 games against American League East competition. Since they are buried in the division cellar, 21½ games out of first, this is the first time in seven seasons that summertime games against the Yankees don’t have much impact.
And with the loss, this club reached 40 losses quicker (57 games) than any Orioles team since the beginning of the decade, when the 2010 team started the season 15-40 in the 13th of 14 straight losing seasons.
The Orioles (17-40) scored just one run Friday night in front of an announced crowd of 26,500 at Camden Yards, that run coming on Manny Machado’s 17th homer of the season three batters into the first inning. They’ve scored three runs or fewer in 14 of their past 16 games and have scored just three total runs over their past four games.
Asked after Friday’s game what more the Orioles can do to find their offensive flow, Showalter said he and executive vice president Dan Duquette are constantly trying to find solutions.
“We'll keep looking at other ways to approach it,” Showalter said. “As soon as the game ends, we talk about something different for tomorrow. You throw out a lot of them and then you back off and let it go, but there's just [only] so long before you have to do some things. You keep waiting. The pitchers are good. This is the big leagues. But we've been better in these situations in the past. We’ve had over two months of baseball, so it's been a challenge for us.”
Only one starting pitcher in the majors has received less run support than Orioles right-hander Andrew Cashner (2-7), who entered the night averaging just 2.7 runs per outing. He pitched well enough to win against the Yankees (36-17), allowing three runs over six innings for his fifth quality start in 12 outings this season. But on Friday, both the offense and the defense behind him could have offered better support.
“I don’t focus on the offense,” Cashner said. “My job is to make pitches. I mean, they’ll turn it around. I believe in all the guys we have in here. It’s just time for me to make pitches.
“Yeah, it’s been difficult, but you’ve just got to show up and try to win today. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for you. You’ve got to try to keep picking each other up. You can’t cash it in. You’ve got to keep grinding every day.”
The Orioles bats made struggling Yankees starter Sonny Gray look strong, once again stifled by a steady diet of off-speed pitches that had them swinging and missing. Gray (4-4), who entered the night with a 5.98 ERA and a 1.711 WHIP in 10 starts, held the Orioles to four hits and the one run over six innings. Of his 90 pitches on the night, Gray’s slider (24) and curveball (22) accounted for more than half of his arsenal, and he induced all 11 of his swinging strikes on those two pitches.
“Just like all their guys, they have the lowest fastball rate,” Showalter said. “A lot of breaking balls, two of them, the slider and the [curveball]. The command of his fastball kind of came and went. But he always had the two breaking balls to go to. … You could probably look back at it. He threw a lot of them. We knew that going in.”
After Machado’s homer in the first, the Orioles had just one potential rally against Gray. Jonathan Schoop led off the second inning with an opposite-field double, but two groundouts followed. After Chance Sisco was hit by a pitch, Joey Rickard struck out to strand runners at the corners. Gray retired 12 of the final 14 batters he faced.
Despite allowing 10 base runners, Cashner managed to limit the damage against a Yankees team that entered the night leading the majors in runs per game (5.64), home runs (87) and OPS (.804). He ran into trouble in the third, relinquishing a 1-0 lead after allowing the first four batters to reach base with rookie sensation Gleyber Torres hitting an RBI single. But Cashner limited the damage to that, striking out Aaron Judge swinging on a high 95 mph fastball. Greg Bird’s grounder to first allowed Chris Davis to cut down the lead runner at home to prevent a run and Giancarlo Stanton grounded out to shortstop to end the threat.
Aaron Hicks doubled with one out in the fourth, but Cashner stranded him at third. However, he couldn’t carry that into the fifth. Torres opened the inning with a hit to left that Trey Mancini couldn’t corral cleanly. But Mancini managed to throw Torres out on a close play at third as the rookie went for a triple. After Brett Gardner singled and stole second, Bird sent a ball to center that hit off Adam Jones’ glove just before the center fielder collided with the fence, letting the ball drop in for an RBI triple.
Cashner nearly escaped the sixth unscathed, but allowed a run-scoring double on a ball Austin Romine shot into right-center field that sailed over Joey Rickard’s glove and to the wall.
Tanner Scott struck out the side in the seventh, but allowed a loud solo homer to Judge, a slider that was sent onto the walkway in left field. It was the Yankees slugger’s 13th career homer against the Orioles – his most against any opponent – in his 28th career start against them.
The Orioles still had their opportunities against the Yankees bullpen late. They put two on with two out in the seventh against Chad Green before pinch hitter Pedro Álvarez struck out, and they loaded the bases with one out against setup man Dellin Betances in the eighth before Schoop struck out and Davis flied out to center.