Despite the Orioles’ horrible season, their 0-10 record in Toronto this season — which included five losses by two runs or fewer and three walk-off defeats — is startling in many ways as it came against a team in a similar rebuilding mode that is 11 games under .500.
“We’re together, but this isn’t fun. Losing isn’t fun,” first baseman Trey Mancini said. “Not winning a game here in Toronto this year isn’t fun. … You can’t really put your finger on it. It’s just that some things don’t go your way and we didn’t play to our potential at all here this year. It’s kind of a tough stat to wrap your head around and not something to be proud of.”
The Orioles (37-90) managed just two hits Wednesday, matching a season low, and were hitless through six innings against rookie right-hander Thomas Pannone, who was making his first major league start, while wasting rookie right-hander David Hess’ best start of the season.
“Obviously they play well against us and we haven’t,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “We had two hits today. The story for me starts and ends with that other than David’s good outing. We had two hits. If you get two hits, you’re not going to beat anybody.”
The Orioles reached their 90th loss in their 127th game, which is the quickest to 90 losses since the 2003 Detroit Tigers hit that mark in their 121st game. That team finished 43-119.
Hess, 25, deserved a far better fate. He retired the first 12 batters he faced and allowed just three hits. He made only one mistake, an elevated 2-2 changeup that Kendrys Morales hit into the right-field stands in the seventh inning for his fourth homer of the series. It was the only run Hess (2-8) allowed in seven innings.
“I think it shows that some things are starting to come together, but I also think that it shows that there’s still work to be done,” Hess said. “You’ve got to recognize when a step forward is taken, but at the same time you don’t want to be content with that. You want to continue to work and get better. From a confidence standpoint, it’s definitely growing, but I think I want to continue to get better and work each day.”
Hess didn’t get much help from his offense. The Orioles had their opportunities to score, but went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
Then Hess had to watch as right-hander Miguel Castro allow five runs in the eighth, letting all five hitters he faced reach base in an inning that snowballed quickly. Castro walked two, threw three wild pitches, allowed a double to Richard Ureña and gave up a three-run homer to Devon Travis.
Mancini’s leadoff single in the seventh broke up Pannone’s no-hit bid. But that was the only hit Pannone allowed in seven innings.
“Yeah, he was rolling there for a while,” Mancini said. “He’s a really good pitcher. I was impressed by him today. I know it was like 88-89 on the gun, but that thing played up a lot. It reminded me a lot of [former Blue Jays lefty and current New York Yankees pitcher J.A.] Happ actually with the way his fastball just has carry to it and you almost have to treat it like it’s 93-94. He had a pretty good changeup, too, that he kept low in the zone. He did a good job.”
Pannone, who was making his first major league start filling Marcus Stroman’s rotation spot, had made just nine minor league starts this season after serving an 80-game minor league drug suspension. Each of his previous four major league outings were in relief, none longer than 1 2/3 innings.
But the Orioles let Pannone get in a groove. He pounded the strike zone with his high-80s fastball and the Orioles swinging through the pitch 14 times as he allowed just three base runners — he hit Jonathan Villar with a pitch before walking Tim Beckham and Adam Jones — through his first five innings.
The Orioles jumped on Pannone in the seventh, putting runners at second and third with no outs after Mancini’s leadoff single and a two-base error after Jones’ liner sailed over left fielder Teoscar Hernández’s head.
But the Orioles still couldn’t score as Pannone retired the next three batters, Beckham and Craig Gentry on groundouts and Renato Núñez on a popout.
The Orioles also had two on with one out in the eighth against Blue Jays reliever Ryan Tepera after John Andreoli’s leadoff single and a one-out walk issued to Cedric Mullins. But Villar struck out swinging and Billy McKinney made a sliding catch on Mancini’s bloop fly ball into shallow right field.
“It’s an awesome job by David,” Mancini said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t come through with a couple runs in those two innings and that changed the momentum of the game. But he was awesome out there. He worked at a great pace, executed all of his pitches the whole day and it was really fun to play behind. He did an excellent job.”
Hess’ recent struggles centered around fastball command — he was coming off a four-walk game and was averaging 3.9 walks per nine innings. But he was aggressive in the zone with his fastball Wednesday. While Showalter said he was more impressed with Hess’ zero walks than his career-high seven strikeouts, his ability to locate up and down in the zone was key. Four of Hess’ strikeouts came on four-seamers, including three that were up in the zone.
“Pitching is the art of throwing off the timing of the hitters, so anytime you can shift their eye levels and work them in and out, the ability to execute those pitches, that’s the name of the game,” Hess said. “So to be able to elevate when we wanted to and go down in the zone, [catcher Austin] Wynns did a good job utilizing that and recognizing what was going well today. He called a great game and it’s always fun when you and your catcher are on the same page and you’re able to execute what you want to that day.”