During a week in which the Orioles have injected much-needed talent into their future through amateur draft signings, the current on-field product has suffered through what’s easily been its worst stretch of a defeat-filled 2019 campaign.
Wednesday’s 10-5 loss to the San Diego Padres was the Orioles’ 13th in their past 14 games. It also marked the 16th time through 80 contests the team has surrendered double-digit runs, while it was the 10th time Baltimore has allowed five home runs in a game, a major league record before this team has even reached the season’s halfway point.
Manager Brandon Hyde spoke at length before the game about the need for someone in baseball’s worst bullpen to step up and prove capable of routinely getting outs. That didn’t happen Wednesday, and the relief flop followed Dylan Bundy’s worst start since early April.
Bundy failed to complete five innings for the first time since April 6, ending a 13-start stretch of doing so. The five earned runs he allowed marked the second straight start he gave up more than three after eight consecutive outings below that number, posting a 3.09 ERA in that span.
“Just wasn’t commanding the ball very well today with all my pitches, really,” Bundy said. “Worked pretty hard for the first three innings and just wasn’t able to get any momentum going.”
Said Hyde: “I thought he worked hard for four innings. … On a hot day, I feel like he just ran out of gas a little bit.”
The stretch of success established him as a valuable trade piece for a team in pursuit of young talent, but also as a consistent eater of innings on a staff desperate for them. Andrew Cashner, a pending free agent, holds the same two titles, and with the trade deadline nearing, executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias admitted it could prove difficult to part with either. The 22-58 Orioles are 17-26 in games started by Bundy, Cashner and John Means, the rookie left-hander who has surprised with a 2.67 ERA. They are 5-32 behind other starters.
“Were we to lose one of those guys, even to injury or something, how we backfill them right now is not very obvious,” Elias said. “We'll take that as it comes and we'll do what's right for the organization. But they're carrying us. Our record when either Cashner or Means or Bundy's throwing is a lot different than when they're not.”
Elias offered his comments after a news conference to introduce second-round draft pick Gunnar Henderson, coming a day after first overall pick Adley Rutschman received similar treatment for his signing. Elias sees an exciting future building, but games such as Wednesday’s serve to remind of the wait to come.
Beginning with his first outing of May, Bundy shifted away from using his fastball, throwing it under 50% of the time, and started finding success. But he has thrown fastballs more than half the time in three of his past four outings, doing so on 52 of his 94 pitches Wednesday. That 55% rate was his second-highest of the season, with his first start of the year, one that lasted 3 2/3 innings, being the only one higher.
It was a slider, though, that put him and the Orioles behind. Hanser Alberto led off the bottom of the first by continuing his success against left-handed pitchers with a triple off San Diego’s Matt Strahm, then scored on Renato Núñez’s double, but Bundy lost the lead the next half inning. Greg Garcia hammered a slider that hung in the middle of the strike zone for a two-run home run, then Eric Hosmer added an RBI single.
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Franmil Reyes extended the lead with a solo shot, turning around Bundy’s 92 mph fastball and sending it a projected 452 feet. Paired with former Orioles infielder Manny Machado’s 455-foot blast Tuesday, the Padres became responsible for two of this season’s four longest home runs at Camden Yards, of which there have been many.
And more were to come. Bundy exited after allowing a leadoff single to Machado in the fifth, then Shawn Armstrong surrendered Reyes’ second home run of the day. Hosmer took Armstrong deep in the fourth after the Orioles’ middle infielders were late to cover second on a steal attempt, then Hunter Renfroe hit a first-pitch home run off Tanner Scott in the seventh. Of the eight players in San Diego’s starting lineup Wednesday, eight homered in the Padres’ two games at Oriole Park.
“There’s not a whole lot of bright spots when you gave up 18 runs in two games to the Padres,” Hyde said. “Tough to win that way.
“When you have a team with a 6 ERA and have given up 1,400 homers so far, it’s hard to win games.”
Jonathan Villar and Pedro Severino homered for the Orioles, but they left the bases loaded in the seventh and eighth.
“This has been probably the worst two-week stretch we've had,” Elias said. “Not only in terms of the losses, but just the play has been rougher. The pitching's kind of barely making it through games. We're having more lapses, I think, than we had in the earlier part of the year.
“We knew this was gonna be a tough season, but it's still tough to go through it on a day-to-day basis.”