Cleveland — It's a distinction that hasn't been required very often this season, but as the Orioles were thumped in comprehensive fashion during a 10-0 loss to the Cleveland Indians on Sunday at Progressive Field that featured a shutout from Indians starter Shane Bieber, the difference was made clear.
Lose valiantly, the way they did in Wednesday's doubleheader sweep against the New York Yankees and Saturday to a dominant pitching performance, and a team as limited as the Orioles can live with it and move on.
Play and pitch as poorly as they did both Sunday and in the series-opening 14-7 loss here in Cleveland, and there’s no amount of rebuild pablum that can cover for it.
Sunday falls firmly in line with the latter, and all you had to do was listen. Manager Brandon Hyde said they got “completely dominated.” Spot starter Yefry Ramirez said he was “just bad.” First baseman Chris Davis, who struck out four times to help Bieber to a career-high 15, called his own lack of adjustment “just stupidity on my part.”
They’ve lost 31 times this year — tied now for most in the majors. They rarely talk about defeats like this.
“We were hoping to get some length out of Yefry,” Hyde said. “Didn't really happen. We were hoping to get some length out of [Gabriel] Ynoa. Didn't happen. And we just got carved up offensively. So, I think it's one of those games where we just got completely beat.”
In fairness, the Orioles (15-31) faced a pitcher in Bieber who nearly matched the performance of Adam Plutko and the Cleveland bullpen from a day earlier as they held the Orioles to one hit.
Bieber struck out two in a 10-pitch first inning that was a harbinger of things to come — his 15 strikeouts were a career-high, and all five hits the Orioles managed against him were singles. His shutout took 107 pitches.
“That was masterful,” Hyde said. “He worked ahead, had really good stuff, had a great breaking ball that we just continued to swing at underneath the zone and didn't make any adjustments during the game. He was just really, really good. And we didn't adjust at all and make it tough on him.”
So tough that once Ramirez fell behind 1-0 on three hits within his first six pitches, it was always going to be a day to forget for the Orioles. It was 2-0 after the first inning, and Cleveland tacked on one run in the second and two in the third.
“I just thought they were aggressive from the start, and he just struggled keeping them off the barrel,” Hyde said. “I didn't think he had his good changeup, and not much of a breaking ball, so they were sitting in the middle of the plate and hit him hard.”
Richard Bleier made a return to form with two quality innings, but Ynoa relieved him and allowed a run to score on Bleier's ledger before imploding himself.
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With a runner on second, Ynoa leaped to make a play on a chopper up the middle and attempted to get the lead runner at third base. His throw was wide, though, and his error helped spark a three-run sixth inning before Cleveland made it an even 10 runs with two in the seventh.
Hyde spoke before the game about how relief pitching was contagious. Usually the first reliever steadying things breeds steadiness the rest of the way, but even that didn't hold to form. Ynoa’s backslide from his early reliability continued, and the Orioles finished a four-game set in Cleveland with four games worth of evidence of just how inconsistent things are around here.
Thursday’s game featured a 5-1 lead against Cy Young candidate Trevor Bauer and devolved into a 14-7 loss, thanks to some brain-melting defensive lapses that exacerbated their much-more-characteristic pitching woes. But the Orioles are often at their best after they play their worst, so Friday’s 5-1 win in a bounce-back start from Dylan Bundy was fitting.
Saturday’s 4-1 loss featured much cap-tipping after Plutko allowed a home run to Trey Mancini and nothing else as Cleveland jumped on some rare mistakes by John Means, but there wasn’t a single moment in Sunday’s loss in which the Orioles looked like they might win.
“The 14-7 loss kind of just got away from us, but that wasn't a blowout until the very end,” Hyde said. “This game was lopsided from early on. I thought we were in yesterday. We won the day before, swung the bat good the first day.
“Today, we just got beat.”