The Orioles saw old teammate Jeremy Hellickson on Tuesday night for the first time since he ended his brief tenure in Baltimore with a robust ERA of nearly 7.00. And the version of Hellickson they saw was the type of pitcher who has given them fits this year, one who provides a diet of few fastballs and many off-speed offerings.
The Orioles had their opportunities against Hellickson, but couldn’t make enough of them stand, and the result was their fourth straight loss, 3-2 in front of an announced 13,935 at Camden Yards.
For the 11th time in the past 13 games they scored three runs or fewer.
“It’s not easy,” Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said about the offense’s struggles. “And then you hear the background noise — the fans telling the players what to do and various things. It comes with it. Frustration is a part of this game. It’s a little more frustrating now than it has been. But, as a professional, I won’t let that bring me down because at the end of the day I have an obligation to myself, to my family, to this organization to go play hard. This is obviously a results-based business and people only care about the results, but the effort’s there and all that the players can control is the effort once the ball is hit.”
The Orioles received a first-inning solo homer from Manny Machado, his 16th of the season, which served as a fitting counterpunch to Bryce Harper solo shot in the top of the inning. After that, the Orioles put the leadoff hitter on base in each of the next three innings against Hellickson but couldn’t score.
They had something going against him with one out in the fifth when Chance Sisco was hit by a pitch and No. 9 hitter Jace Peterson singled. Two batters later, Adam Jones doubled into the left-center-field gap.
Sisco easily scored from second, but the potential tying run was thrown out at the plate when shortstop Trea Turner’s relay throw beat Peterson, ending the inning with Machado in the on-deck circle.
Hellickson, who had a 6.97 ERA in 10 starts with the Orioles last year after being acquired in a waiver-deadline trade with the Philadelphia Phillies, was by no means overwhelming, allowing two runs on six hits over five innings, but he proved to be the kind of pitcher who gives the Orioles fits.
May 29, 2018 -- The Orioles lose to the Nationals, 3-2. (Denise Sanders, Baltimore Sun video)
In his 81-pitch outing, he threw just 32 percent fastballs, leaning on a newly discovered curveball and the changeup that’s been his staple for nearly 60 percent of his pitches. Hellickson threw his curve 26 times, more than any other pitch, and recorded three swinging strikes with it. He threw 22 changeups, and had four swinging strikes from that pitch.
“He pitched pretty well for us early on [last season],” Showalter said. “He did exactly what we talked about he was going to do. He’s going to go the curveball, you’re going to get cutter to the left-handed hitters, you’re going to get changeup to the right-handed hitters. He’s not going to throw the cutter much to the right-handed hitters. Pretty much did what … he just did it well. He had three pitches. He had the cutter, changeup and really four with the curveball.
“He didn’t throw a lot of four-seam fastball, but enough of them to keep you honest. A couple two-seamers here and there. But it was pretty much the repertoire. He’s added a little different wrinkle for this year, I think he’s feeling good physically right now, which he was when he got to us. I think he got a little tired toward the end when he was with us.”
That didn’t lead to many strikeouts — Hellickson had only three — but it did induce two rally-killing double-play balls in the early innings. Pedro Álvarez rolled over on a curve for a 4-6-3 double play after Mark Trumbo reached on a leadoff single in the second, and Jonathan Schoop hit into a 6-4-3 double play on a changeup in the third inning.
“I think we had good at-bats off him,” Jones said. “We grounded into some double plays. We did that yesterday, also. I thought we had some good at-bats. When things aren’t going well, we just nitpick at everything, but I thought we had good at-bats off him. He had a great changeup tonight and kept us off balance. But I thought overall, individually, we had good at-bats.”
Orioles right-hander Dylan Bundy did his job, recording a quality start for the seventh time in 12 starts this season, but allowed a pair of solo homers — Harper’s first-inning blast and former Oriole Mark Reynolds’ homer to open the fourth.
Four Nationals relievers — each pitching one inning — combined to hold the Orioles scoreless over the final four innings.
The Orioles had the winning run at first in the ninth against Sean Doolittle but couldn’t convert. Pinch hitter Trey Mancini was hit by a pitch and Joey Rickard singled to put two on with one out, but pinch hitters Craig Gentry and Andrew Susac struck out to end the game.
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