Cleveland — There's no sulking or self-pity in the Orioles' clubhouse after a defeat, manager Brandon Hyde proclaimed before they turned an early four-run lead off one of the game's best starters into a 14-7 loss to the Cleveland Indians Thursday at Progressive Field.
Such emotions would not be out of place Thursday, when another short start from Dan Straily, more unreliable relief pitching and some uncharacteristically sloppy defense gave the Orioles their third loss in two days. The result challenged the credulity that anything happening with this team is very positive.
“We had a lot of momentum early on, and kind of had them on their heels and let them hang around, and kind of lost control of the game as it went on,” right fielder Trey Mancini said. “Not one of our better games overall — probably one of our worst.”
There's a cost-of-doing-business nature to so many of their losses, like Wednesday's doubleheader sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees when the Orioles (14-29) played fine by all accounts but were just out-manned. But losses like Thursday's, even for one night, do little to back up Hyde's pregame message that there's improvement amidst the losing.
This was their eighth loss in 11 games, and came from an unexpected position of strength. Jason Kipnis homered early off Straily, the Orioles' struggling starter, but Rio Ruiz and Mancini hit home runs to give the Orioles a 5-1 lead in the third.
What followed was a mix of today's fresh hits and yesterday's favorites. Straily gave two runs right back, albeit on some weak contact, and was pulled one out into the fourth inning.
“Well, he's at 70-something pitches with one out in the fourth, third time of the order is coming up,” Hyde said. “We've got [Gabriel Ynoa] there for some length, and I was hoping Gabby could go two, hopefully three [innings] to hopefully bridge it into the sixth, seventh inning. It just didn't happen.”
What did happen happened rather quickly. Ynoa walked a batter, got a fly ball out, then allowed another home run to Kipnis that made it 91 this season for the Orioles. Undaunted, as they often have to be, the Orioles' offense plugged along with Jonathan Villar and Mancini scoring on a double by Stevie Wilkerson to erase the temporary deficit.
Before long, the Orioles' bullpen made it permanent. Left-hander Paul Fry allowed two more of Ynoa's runs to score in the sixth.
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The Orioles' defense was not blameless in having the seventh inning — and the game — get out of hand. Fry eventually turned things over to Miguel Castro, who allowed a single up the middle to Leonys Martin for the inning's first run. A hesitation by center fielder Wilkerson, who is learning the position on the fly, allowed both runners to advance.
That put two in scoring position for a bizarre two-run fielder's choice that broke the game open. Richard Bleier, fresh off the injured list, got a soft chopper to second baseman Hanser Alberto. Alberto tried for a double play by tagging Francisco Lindor off first, but in chasing him back to the bag, was late throwing for the initial force. As first baseman Chris Davis tried to chase Lindor to second base, a second run scored.
“I think it was just a couple odd plays,” Hyde said. “If [with] Hanser, that ball happens again, I think he's going to get a little more urgency to go to the plate. He kind of got stuck in between because the runner, between first and second. They had some breaks, and we didn't, that made it an unreachable game.”
Two more scored that inning. Wilkerson gamely dived for a ball but came up short in the eighth inning to allow the 14th run. It was a fitting finish to a game the Orioles will do well not to replicate.
“You can't win in this league unless you're putting zeroes up out of the pen,” Hyde said. “We just have to do a better job of pitching overall. I think we threw 250 pitches tonight. It wasn't our night on the mound.”
The maddening baseball that followed his exit put Straily’s fourth straight start of fewer than five innings out of focus by the time the game ended, nearly four hours after it began. But his ERA climbed to 8.51 with four runs in 3 1/3 innings, and his assessment of his own day would have been fitting for the team itself.
“It's frustrating,” Straily said. “No one wants to figure out what’s going on more than me. It’s getting really annoying, every fifth day. I’m going out there and it seems like I’m making adjustments and I’m just not getting deeper into ballgames. It’s not like today I was getting hit around the park. I fell behind some guys, had some bloop hits. Maybe I need to dig a little deeper, get a little more honest self-evaluation and see what’s going on.”