When Orioles reliever Adam Plutko introduced himself to his new club after the spring trade from Cleveland with a run of scoreless innings and a wistful declaration that they’d go 162-0 this year, both his mound presence and mindset were viewed as positive additions to an inexperienced pitching staff.
All the losses piling up — six in a row and 13 of 15 after Sunday’s 6-5 loss, with Saturday’s 12-9 defeat coming as Plutko allowed four runs to cough up a lead before he recorded an out — haven’t done much to dim his outlook as evidence to the contrary mounts.
“Obviously, I know what my line was and I know what my first inning was, but what’s the point of beating up myself on that?” Plutko said. “That seems pretty pointless, and what’s the point of dwelling on a lot of us maybe struggling for a hot minute or being in a quick slump? Let’s build on some positive.”
Plutko, who has allowed 10 runs in three outings over the last week, singled out Ryan Mountcastle (grand slam), Anthony Santander (three hits including a home run) and Pat Valaika (two-run double) among the hitters in Saturday’s game. He said he was encouraged by scoreless innings from Cole Sulser and Shawn Armstrong.
“This game’s hard enough, so let’s look for some positives and really, really focus in on those,” Plutko said.
For the first month of the season, any list of positives for the Orioles would have included Plutko. He’d allowed three runs in 21 ⅓ innings over his first 15 outings, though he noted there were some red flags before he allowed four runs in the first inning as Sunday’s opener against the New York Yankees. Plutko noted he’d walked the first batter he’d faced in “four or five” of those preceding outings, and was fortunate they didn’t come around to score.
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That same fortune didn’t extend to those who Plutko relieved, as only one reliever in all of baseball has allowed more than Plutko’s nine inherited runners scored entering Saturday.
“I think what happened with the first 15 … to now is just execution,” Plutko said. “You guys all watch the games. How many balls are in the middle of the box right now and how many balls were in the middle of the box when I was on that good stretch?”
Manager Brandon Hyde said Plutko is in a “tough stretch right now” and is “just not missing the bat,” noting that he has a lot of experience with Cleveland.
“He had five really good weeks, and then this last couple weeks has been tough,” Hyde said. “They’re hitting him hard right now.”
Hyde was glad Plutko was able to come back out for the fifth inning after he lost the lead with that four-run fourth, given how thin the pitching staff is stretched. The Orioles are in a stretch of 16 straight days with games and have seen their bullpen taxed by short starts. The relievers have struggled in a way they didn’t earlier in the year, when the likes of Plutko were pitching effectively.
Plutko was encouraged by how he stopped leaving the ball over the middle of the plate in that inning, one in which he struck out two and boasted that he got Nationals star Trea Turner “to look foolish on a pop-out on a good cutter on the outside corner.”
Plutko said: “I’m encouraged myself with the second inning. You can dwell on negatives all day long but in baseball, this game’s hard enough.”