To hear Matt Harvey and manager Brandon Hyde tell it after the Orioles’ 10-2 loss Wednesday to the Toronto Blue Jays, Harvey doesn’t much deserve the 7.70 ERA that he’s entering the All-Star break with.
Harvey believes it’s one bad inning per start, like the fourth inning Wednesday when he ran out of gas and the game got out of reach. Hyde believes he’s constantly undone by the club’s poor defense behind him, and noted the fly ball they didn’t catch and the double play they didn’t turn in the three-run first inning.
Mileage may vary on all of that. The only thing that’s indisputable is that Harvey, at 76 innings after pitching just 11 ⅔ in 2020, deserves a rest.
“Matt’s grinding right now,” Hyde said. “He didn’t pitch much last year at all. We’re at the break. He’s going to get some time off to kind of recharge a little bit. I think that’s important, important that he gets some time to rest because it’s been — he’s really toed the rubber for us in this spot the entire first half.”
His last start of the first half was among the most forgettable. An announced crowd of 7,457 barely had time to get into their seats before the Orioles were down 3-0 in the first inning, then he settled in to face the minimum in the second and third before hitting a wall in the fourth. Three more runs came in, and he left with six runs in on nine hits. He’s the 10th pitcher since 1901 to have an ERA of 7.70 or higher in his first 18 starts. The last was Orioles starter Chris Tillman in 2017.
Perhaps Harvey will be better with some rest in the second half. His fielding-independent pitching (FIP), which is an ERA based on factors a pitcher can control, was 2.50 runs below his actual one entering this start. But he’s still lost 10 times, and even if it’s just one inning that’s doing him in each start, they add up.
“Obviously frustrated,” Harvey said. “It’s been a rough first half, but you’ve just got to kind of hit the reset button. I think the break is going to help. I think a lot of us are kind of banged up and tired and definitely, definitely need the rest and the time off.”
Adam Plutko was on the mound to give up Harvey’s last run and allowed one of his own in the fifth inning, then César Valdez’s first outing off the injured list featured a two-run home run by Bo Bichette. Rookie left-hander Zac Lowther allowed a run of his own in the eighth.
A costly, confusing missed catch
Rookie left fielder Ryan McKenna nearly made a sensational diving catch with runners on first and second in the first inning, and the umpires signaled that he caught the fly ball by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. McKenna, however, just missed the catch, and alertly shot up to throw the ball to third to try for a force.
The Orioles proceeded to tag out the lead runner, Marcus Semien, and throw the ball to second base for another out. Replay review, however, confirmed that McKenna didn’t catch the ball, placing the outcome of the play in the umpire’s discretion. They awarded Semien home, as he was rounding third and would have scored had the play been properly called, while placing Bo Bichette at second base and Guerrero at first with a run-scoring single.
“That goes to New York, and they place the runners and use the high camera and place the runners where they think they would be if there was the correct call made on the field at the time,” Hyde said. “So, with Semien breaking right away, scoring, when Mark [Carlson] called Guerrero out, they felt like he was going to score. It’s tough to argue that.”
Bases-loaded chance wasted
The Orioles loaded the bases with three singles to lead off the fifth inning against Blue Jays starter Hyun Jin Ryu, but managed just one run on a sacrifice fly by Austin Hays. One batter later, Trey Mancini flew out to right field and Austin Wynns was out at home trying to tag.
Most of the Orioles’ offense came from the bottom of the order, with Pat Valaika and Domingo Leyba getting two hits apiece.
The Orioles chipped back for a run on an eighth-inning single by Ryan Mountcastle.
Franco to injured list
Third baseman Maikel Franco, who was scratched from Monday’s lineup to miss his fourth straight game after spraining his ankle last Wednesday in Houston, was placed on the 10-day injured list and replaced on the roster by infielder Kelvin Gutiérrez.
Gutiérrez, 26, was acquired this weekend for cash considerations after the Kansas City Royals designated him for assignment. He’ll provide infield cover, primarily at third base, with Leyba able to move all over the infield.
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Gutiérrez was a ninth-inning substitute in Wednesday’s loss.