Before opening their latest homestand with a matchup against the National League East-leading Atlanta Braves on Friday night, the Orioles welcomed franchise icon Boog Powell to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in recognition of his birthday Tuesday. The game at Camden Yards was the Orioles’ first at home since Powell, a two-time World Series champion and four-time All-Star in a 14-season stretch with Baltimore that began six decades ago, turned 80.
By the contest’s end, the Orioles’ losing streak was a fifth of the way there. Atlanta provided Baltimore’s 16th consecutive defeat, 3-0, in a game that matched the script of many of its predecessors: The Orioles, who own the major league’s worst record at 38-83, fell behind early and never particularly threatened to catch up.
Although the final score marked the Orioles’ closest game in eight days — and their first time holding an opponent under five runs during the streak — Braves starter Max Fried cruised to a four-hit shutout on 90 pitches, becoming the first Atlanta pitcher to accomplish such a feat since Greg Maddux on Sept. 13, 2000 in giving the Braves their seventh straight win. Baltimore has been outscored by more than six runs per game amid this stretch.
“Disappointing, but I’m encouraged,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I felt like we played a major league baseball game tonight.”
The streak is the longest by an American League team in a decade, with the 2011 Seattle Mariners dropping 17 straight.
“We end the game every night, and everybody is upset,” left fielder Austin Hays said. “There’s no music in the clubhouse. Everybody’s just mad because we’re losing games. It’s a very tough atmosphere, but I think we’re doing as good a job as you can do coming in the next day with a positive mindset.”
Left-hander Keegan Akin allowed a leadoff single to open the second inning, and Atlanta catcher Travis d’Arnaud, freshly signed to a two-year extension, followed with a home run. Akin retired the next four Braves with three strikeouts before Jorge Soler took him deep as well.
That was the final run Akin allowed in pitching into the sixth, benefiting when Adam Duvall’s deep fly ball with the bases loaded stopped at the warning track for the final out of the third. The out marked the first of seven in a row for Akin before an error by shortstop Richie Martin and a walk of d’Arnaud, but Dillon Tate stranded both then got the first two outs of the seventh, the latter coming on a diving catch from Hays.
Akin said the outing, which lowered his ERA as a starter this season to 8.87, was an encouraging one.
“I feel a little more comfortable on the mound, and I’m commanding the ball a little better,” he said. “Obviously, I wish I could have figured this out in June, but here I am in August starting to feel a little more comfortable on the mound, so just trying to build off these.”
But even as the Orioles’ bullpen kept the game close, Baltimore’s offense offered little opposition against Fried. A two-out double from Trey Mancini was all that kept the left-hander from facing the minimum through four innings, needing 40 pitches to do so. The Orioles taxed Fried for 18 pitches in the fifth, nearly twice as many as he required in any preceding frame, but he followed with a sixth-pitch sixth, nine-pitch seventh and 10-pitch eighth.
Hyde said the outcome was a combination of Fried’s dominance and the Orioles’ impatience, a trend that continued into the ninth. Richie Martin grounded out on the inning’s first pitch, then Fried struck out Mullins on four pitches. On the second pitch of his at-bat, Ryan Mountcastle hit a hard grounder to the left side, but third baseman Austin Riley dove to snag it and threw him out at first, completing the shutout and extending the streak.
“We thought we had a chance to win that game the whole way through,” Hays said. “He just continued to pitch well and didn’t make a lot of mistakes — didn’t really hardly make any mistakes.
“He didn’t walk anybody, he didn’t give us any free 90-feet and they didn’t make any errors. It was just a really good combination of their starting pitching and their defense.”
When Tate took the mound with two Braves on base, it marked the seventh time in 10 appearances he had inherited multiple runners. All but one of the previous 14 had scored, in addition to six of his own runs, in that span.
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But Tate stranded them both. Left-hander Paul Fry, who had allowed 11 walks and 13 earned runs in his previous three innings, came on to get the final out of the frame, and despite allowing a double to Braves slugger Freddie Freeman, he left him at second and got through the eighth unscathed for his first scoreless outing of more than one inning since Aug. 2 — the Orioles’ last win.
Left-hander Tanner Scott, whose ERA had risen by a run over his past six appearances, worked a scoreless ninth.
“Great to see Paul Fry go in there and make a scoreless appearance, as well as D-Tate tonight, was really good,” Hyde said. “And Tanner as well, throwing the ball well. Two left-handers that we want to get back on track, going in the right direction there. We just didn’t have any offense tonight.”
Around the horn
- Outfielder Anthony Santander, who is still dealing with soreness in the left ankle that he sprained in April, was out of the lineup Friday.
- The Orioles claimed right-hander Chris Ellis from the Tampa Bay Rays and designated right-hander César Valdez for assignment. Ellis, 28, pitched four scoreless innings of relief with seven strikeouts against the Orioles on Tuesday in his second career major league outing.
Orioles losing streaks of 10 games or more
Since moving to Baltimore in 1954, here are the Orioles’ losing streaks of 10 games or more, led by the worst start in major league history in 1988.
- 21 — April 4-28, 1988
- 16 — Aug. 3-present
- 14 — Aug. 11-25, 1954
- 14 — May 18-June 1, 2021
- 13 — Sept. 17-30, 2009
- 12 — Aug. 16-28, 2004
- 12 — Sept. 18-29, 2002
- 12 — June 18-July 3, 1955
- 11 — July 27-Aug, 8, 1958
- 10 — June 12-21, 2019
- 10 — May 26-June 5, 2010
- 10 — Sept. 17-26, 2008
- 10 — Sept. 1-19, 2001
- 10 — June 23-July 3, 1999
- 10 — Aug 23-Sept 2, 1998
- 10 — June 3-13, 1987
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