ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. — After the Orioles committed five errors in a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday night, manager Buck Showalter talked about trying to keep his starting pitchers level-headed through some frustrating fielding behind them.
A starting rotation that’s continued to pile up quality starts — Andrew Cashner’s seven-inning, one-earned-run outing Wednesday was the team’s 50th, tied for fifth most in the American League — throughout a season when they’ve received little run support, now must overcome a porous defense.
“It’s really hard,” Showalter said after Wednesday’s game. “[Cashner] and Alex [Cobb] and I talked about it, and Dylan [Bundy] and [Kevin] Gausman before he left, that until we kind of get our defense in line and shored up, they’re going to have to stay mentally tough with that. It’s a challenge for everybody.”
On Wednesday, Cashner had retired 18 of 19 and had allowed just three hits before the seventh inning unraveled with an unearned run scoring in a frame that included a botched double-play ball, a questionable infield single and a run scoring on an infield popup.
On Tuesday, Cobb had a two-run lead vanish after he left because of two unearned runs scoring following Chris Davis’ throwing error on a possible double-play ball in a 4-3 loss.
For ground-ball pitchers such as Cashner (48.2 percent career ground-ball rate) and Cobb (53.4 percent career ground-ball rate) who rely on putting the ball in play and allowing the defense to make plays behind them, the Orioles new-look infield has struggled to convert outs.
“I think for me, it’s sometimes to constantly tell myself – I’m not going to tell you all because it’s not very nice – but just continue to make pitches, just one pitch at a time, try to keep pounding the zone and try to get outs,” Cashner said after Wednesday’s game. “I think it’s very important to know who you are as a pitcher. Would I like to be a strikeout pitcher? Yes. But I think for me to stay healthy, it’s sink the ball on both sides of the plate, change speeds and try to get them out up in the zone.”
Despite Cobb’s three straight quality starts and five in seven outings, the Orioles are 1-6 in his past seven starts. Cashner has seven quality starts in his past 11 outings, but the Orioles 4-7 in those games.
“I’ve got to tell you,” Showalter said. “I’ve seen some of their frustration and I’m sure you have, too, on the field — but not to the naked eye probably, but if you really know them. But their last three or four starts, you can tell it’s, ‘OK, I’m pitching as good as I can pitch and whatever happens, happens.’
“Nobody’s trying to not convert balls [into outs]. They’re not trying [to make errors]. It’s just, ‘Hey, I’m going to do what I can do.’ … I didn’t have to remind Alex, there were some really good defensive plays made behind him the other night. Everything has slumps, but effort should never, and quite frankly, it’s something you’ve always been able to count on that defense doesn’t [slump], but I may have to rethink that.”
Jones sits in Trop finale
Orioles center fielder Adam Jones was absent from the starting lineup for Thursday’s series finale at the Rays. Showalter said it was to give Jones a day off the artificial turf.
“We kind of talked about that long before we came in here,” Showalter said. “We talked about it before we came here for the series. This is one of the places, really a lot of wear and tear on his legs here. He’ll be back out there tomorrow. He’ll be available tonight hopefully. I don’t see any reason why not.”
Around the horn
Before Sunday’s game, the Orioles will honor the Mamie Johnson Little League team from Washington, which was the first predominantly African-American team to reach the Mid-Atlantic Regional tournament and have the opportunity to make the Little League World Series. The team will meet Jones, who made an $8,500 contribution to help fund the team’s transportation to the regional in Bristol, Conn. … This year’s Orioles Hall of Fame induction ceremony, which will honor former second baseman Brian Roberts and longtime broadcaster Fred Manfra, will take place before Saturday’s game beginning at 6:30 p.m.