In a season and homestand full of embarrassing, frustrating defeats for the Orioles, the Houston Astros surpassed perhaps all measures Saturday at Camden Yards.
The Orioles lost 23-2, surrendering a score of runs for the first time since their infamous 30-3 loss to the Texas Rangers in 2007.
Through five games in a stretch of 13 straight against playoff hopefuls, they are winless and have been outscored 58-16. With another game against Houston looming before a doubleheader with the New York Yankees on Monday, it did not take long for manager Brandon Hyde to begin thinking ahead.
"In the third inning, probably, I was planning, ‘How am I going to finish this game?’ " Hyde said. "And somehow, we finished it.”
But not before the Astros (77-40) set franchise records with 23 runs and 13 extra-base hits, with their 25 total hits tying the team record. Houston scored nine runs behind four home runs in the first three innings, but their biggest frame was a six-run seventh featuring a Yordan Álvarez grand slam, one of the rookie’s three home runs.
Even as the Orioles (38-78) have stormed toward the major league record for home runs allowed while posting baseball’s worst ERA as a staff, they had yet to have a night like Saturday. Orioles outfielder Trey Mancini dismissed the idea that such games are a part of rebuilding.
“That really can’t be your mindset," Mancini said. "Obviously, we’ve lost a lot more than we’ve won the past couple years, and we’ve had flashes of good times this year, such as July. Things were kind of trending up, and August has obviously gotten off to a tough start.
"This is big-boy league. We’ve played some really good teams so far, and it hasn’t been a good homestand for us. But that’s a loser’s mentality right there, to think that you’re going to be taking a beating, so you can’t come to the park expecting that.”
The numbers of the defeat are staggering, and not even Stevie Wilkerson’s return to the mound for the final 1 1/3 innings could slow down the Astros’ offensive onslaught.
For the 62nd time, the Orioles allowed multiple home runs, a major league record for a team’s first 116 games. They set the mark in the first inning, with Alex Bregman and Álvarez going back to back off Aaron Brooks.
With the Astros already leading 8-1 in the third, shortstop Carlos Correa hit the longest home run at Camden Yards since Statcast began tracking in 2015. The solo shot off Brooks had a projected distance of 474 feet, surpassing Manny Machado’s 465-foot blast June 2, 2017, and sailed over both of Oriole Park’s bullpens in left-center field, bouncing into Legends Park.
Add in José Altuve taking Brooks deep in the second, and the Baltimore right-hander allowed four home runs. It marked the seventh time an Orioles pitcher gave up at least four home runs in one outing, setting another dubious major league record for the pitching staff. Brooks finished with nine runs allowed in three innings and has a 9.41 ERA in six starts for the Orioles.
“Just ran into a good offense and didn’t execute pitches and had a few things not go my way," he said. “That’s sometimes how it happens.”
The six home runs allowed in the game left the Orioles only 18 home runs shy of the 2016 Cincinnati Reds’ record for most home runs allowed in a season. They have surrendered 22 home runs in their past five games, even after giving up none in Friday’s 3-2 loss. Álvarez finished with seven runs driven in for 51 RBIs this season, the most for any player in his first 45 career games. Ted Williams previously held the record with 47 RBIs.
Making his fourth career pitching appearance and the first since becoming the first position player in major league history to earn a save, Wilkerson was one out from having a career 1.69 ERA before the Astros struck for three more runs on an Aledmys Diaz RBI single and Álvarez’s third homer. Wilkerson’s ERA rose to 6.75.
“It’s tough to see," Mancini said. "It’s a great team over there. They’re probably World Series favorites from what I’ve seen for the most part, so they take their at-bats seriously, even in the ninth inning off of Stevie.
"You see them up there, they’re professional guys, they’re taking really good at-bats. It’s tough to be out there and everything like that, but it’s our job. You’re gonna have some games where you give up a lot of runs. It’s not fun, but you keep plugging along and keep playing.”
Rio Ruiz’s first career pinch-hit home run cut the Orioles’ deficit to 20-2. It also came in his first at-bat as a father; his son, Luca, was born July 27. Ruiz could be due for more playing time in upcoming days, with designated hitter Renato Núñez leaving the game with a bruised left ankle after fouling a ball off his leg.
It’s nice to think help is on the way. Orioles pitching prospects Grayson Rodriguez, the team’s 2018 first-round pick, and Dean Kremer, acquired in last summer’s Machado trade, both reached double-digit strikeouts Saturday. Plus, 2019 No. 1 overall pick Adley Rutschman had a walk-off hit for Short-A Aberdeen.