Boston — Every loss hurts, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said, whether it’s the first or the fifth or the 100th.
The latter distinction goes to Friday night’s 7-1 thumping by the Boston Red Sox before an announced 29,811 at Fenway Park, marking a forgettable milestone in a year full of them.
“We haven’t won many games,” Hyde said. “It’s been a tough year in a lot of ways, and hopefully, going forward, we’re going to win more games than we’ve won this year.”
Still, the man in charge insists they all feel equally bad in the moment.
It’s true — the losses do feel the same, especially when they follow the script Friday’s game did. So many of these 100 losses have played out this way.
A rookie starting pitcher — this time left-hander Keegan Akin — had a short start in which he constantly dealt with traffic on the bases and was occasionally made to pay. Former Orioles shortstop José Iglesias hit an automatic double to drive in a run in Boston’s two-run second inning, which immediately erased the advantage that came from Austin Hays’ 21st home run of the season earlier that frame.
Bobby Dalbec homered in the fourth inning and a leadoff walk in Akin’s fifth ended his night early. The runner came around to score, meaning he allowed four earned runs on six hits with three walks and no strikeouts, raising his ERA to 6.93.
“Just a really tough time putting away their hitters,” Hyde said. “Pitched into the fifth, but no strikeouts, a lot of foul ball wars. Just it wasn’t sharp for me tonight. Didn’t have the off-speed stuff, I thought he had trouble landing it. He got to two strikes on a lot of hitters, but just didn’t have the weapons to put guys away with tonight. I just didn’t think he had his best stuff tonight.”
Said Akin: “I just kind of struggled to get the ball where I wanted it tonight. That was kind of the life story of those four innings, and it showed a little bit.”
Then came the difficult relief outings that made any hope of a comeback feel moot. First, it was Marcos Diplán allowing Akin’s last run to score in the fifth. Then, newly recalled Dusten Knight allowed a three-run double to Hunter Renfroe in the sixth before Eric Hanhold limited the damage with the final two outs. Spenser Watkins pitched around an error and some hard contact in the seventh, but a scoreless eighth solidified two effective innings.
Though they’re all at different stages of their careers, from a former well-regarded prospect in Akin to long-time minor leaguers in Knight and Watkins, every pitcher the Orioles (47-100) used Friday was a rookie. Each has been featured prominently for the team this season, with more downs than ups. Akin took the loss, giving the rookies 50 of the team’s 100 defeats.
Their contributions Friday led to the inevitable 100-loss season, the Orioles’ third in the past four years with the coronavirus-shortened 60-game in 2020 the only exception. They lost 115 games in 2018 and 108 in 2019 and are the first team to lose 100 games this season, beating the Arizona Diamondbacks to that distinction. Arizona fell in 10 innings, 4-3, later Friday night to the Houston Astros on a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch to reach 100 losses.
Before a disastrous 2018 season that led to a change atop baseball operations and warranted a total rebuild of the organization, the Orioles only had one 100-loss season, in 1988, when they lost 107 games.
This season’s struggles have come in bunches. The Orioles lost 14 games in a row to end May, then 19 in a row in August, two shy of the club and American League record. They’ve hit inconsistently all year, but their pitching challenges have been unprecedented.
Only 32 teams in baseball history have allowed seven or more runs more often than the 61 times the Orioles have this season. Their 5.89 ERA entering Friday was the highest in the league and on pace to be the third-highest ever.
Hays homers again
All-Star Cedric Mullins, as he is wont to do, led off the game with a single off Chris Sale. But the Orioles’ only hit for much of the game after that was Hays’ second-inning home run, which hit a light tower above the Green Monster in left field to give him five homers this week.
Hays has been among the hottest hitters in baseball in September, batting .293 with a 1.028 OPS entering Friday.
Sale came off the COVID injured list to pitch five innings and allow just those two hits, with the Orioles not getting another until Ramón Urías singled in the seventh inning.
Kelvin Gutiérrez had the only other hit, singling in the eighth. Ryan McKenna reached on a hit-by-pitch and a walk, the only Oriole to get on base twice.
“It was not a great night for us tonight,” Hyde said. “We had four hits. I thought Chris Sale was good. Nice to see Austin Hays continue to swing the bat extremely well, hit two balls hard including the homer then a line-out to center. But beside that, we didn’t really do much against him. It was pretty empty for us offensively as well.”
Short-lived stay for Jahmai Jones
Hyde said before Friday’s game that the Orioles optioned Jahmai Jones to Triple-A Norfolk after Thursday’s game not because of his struggles, but a lack of avenues to play every day.
“With our infield mix, we have [Pat] Valaika here,” Hyde said. “We have [Richie] Martin here. [Ramón] Urías, day at a time is feeling better of late but I’d like to keep him off shortstop as much as possible to kind of help him out from a leg standpoint, which kind of points him toward second base with Val and Richie both being versatile there, able to play a couple spots. We want Jam to play every day. We like Jam a lot. There’s a lot of upside. He got a nice little taste of the big leagues, but we want him to get everyday at-bats, and we felt like that was the right move for him.”
Jones hit .164 with a .425 OPS in 18 games with the Orioles, and Knight was recalled to take the roster spot he vacated.
Saturday, 1:10 p.m.
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