The Orioles’ latest stretch devoid of victories reached a dozen with Monday night’s 9-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The defeat, their 12th in 13 meetings with the American League East leaders, made the Orioles the third AL team since 1901 and first since the 1996 Detroit Tigers to suffer through multiple 12-game losing streaks in one season. Baltimore (38-79) lost its final 14 games of May.
“No one wants to go out there and continuously lose,” starting pitcher Matt Harvey said. “It’s tough. I’ve been on losing teams, but nothing like this. It’s hard.”
Those Tigers a quarter-century ago were the most recent team in either league with two skids of that length entering this year, but the Arizona Diamondbacks, the only team this season with a worse record than the Orioles, had a pair of streaks totaling 30 losses in the first half.
Monday’s loss got away from the Orioles in the middle innings, as has been frequent. Harvey looked to be building on his strong second half of the season, following a leadoff hit-by-pitch by retiring the next nine Rays with five strikeouts, while the Orioles struck first in the third when Jorge Mateo doubled and eventually scored on Cedric Mullins’ bunt. But a walk and single opened Tampa Bay’s fourth, and Austin Meadows tripled both runners home.
Harvey’s sharp play on a comebacker got Meadows out at home to prevent another run in the frame, but Kevin Kiermaier opened the fifth with a home run. Both Meadows’ and Kiermaier’s run-scoring hits came on first-pitch curveballs, an offering that helped Harvey post a 1.64 ERA in his first five starts of the second half after posting the highest ERA of any starter before the All-Star break. He described the one he threw to Kiermaier as “lazy.”
“It’s a tough lineup, you gotta be strong, you got to keep them off-balance, you got to really execute all your pitches,” Harvey said. “They don’t really swing at too many mistakes, and you have to be on your game.”
Brandon Lowe (Maryland) homered off Harvey later in the fifth as the Rays scored five runs off him. Lowe added another off Paul Fry in the sixth after Brett Phillips’ inside-the-park home run, with Tampa Bay scoring eight runs from the fourth to the sixth.
Mike Brosseau took Fernando Abad deep in the seventh. Eight of Brosseau’s 16 career home runs have been against Baltimore. Trey Mancini doubled home the Orioles’ second run in the eighth after fouling a ball off his lower left leg twice, then exited for a pinch-runner. Manager Brandon Hyde said the blows to his calf and foot left Mancini “pretty sore.”
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During the 12-game losing streak, the Orioles have been outscored by 77 runs, scoring three per game while their opponents have averaged nearly 9 1/2.
“I think we’re handling it the best we possibly can, to be honest with you,” Hyde said. “I thought our energy in our dugout tonight was unbelievable for a team that’s winning as many games as we have and just our record. I think our clubhouse is still positive. I think our coaching staff’s done a great job of trying to stay positive through these rough stretches that we’ve gone through. I think the effort’s there, I do. I think we’re playing hard. We’re just not executing, and we make bad pitches during bad times, and we’re trying too hard at the plate in big moments, and that just isn’t how it works in this game.”
For all of Fry’s struggles over the past couple of months, they’ve largely been related to his own command rather than opposing batters bludgeoning him.
Fry took the mound Monday having posted a 9.16 ERA since June 19, with 15 walks in 18 ⅔ innings, but all 15 hits he had allowed in that span were singles. He had allowed only one extra-base hit on the year, the only pitcher with at least 20 innings pitched with that distinction, and owned the third-longest homerless streak in the majors, having not surrendered one since last September.
That status was shattered Monday. Fry replaced Harvey with a runner on in the fifth, issued a walk, then allowed an RBI double to Joey Wendle. On Fry’s second pitch of the sixth, Phillips hit a ball off the left-center-field wall that ricocheted over Mullins’ head in center, giving him enough time to race home and end Fry’s streak. Lowe added a traditional two-run shot three batters later.
In his past six outings, Fry has allowed 12 earned runs in three innings, spiking his ERA from 3.24 to 5.44.
“We’ve gotta get Paul on track,” Hyde said. “Paul was having a really good season the first half. He was pitching in big spots and getting big outs for us, and right now, he’s scuffling a little bit.”
Around the horn
- First baseman Ryan Mountcastle, on the injured list for concussion protocol, participated in a full slate of baseball activities, including pregame batting practice on the field. Hyde said if an evaluation Tuesday goes well, he could be activated in “the next day or two.”
- Right-handed reliever Hunter Harvey (right lat strain) is not with the team for this road trip as of now. Hyde has previously designated this week as when Harvey would be activated.
- The Orioles made a flurry of promotions in the minors Monday, sending right-handers Blaine Knight and Cody Sedlock to Triple-A Norfolk; No. 7 prospect Jordan Westburg to Double-A Bowie; and several 2021 draftees, including No. 5 overall pick Colton Cowser, to Low-A Delmarva among the moves.