How wide is the gulf between baseball’s worst team, the Orioles, and the best, the visiting Boston Red Sox?
So wide that the Red Sox’s 19-12 win Friday night at Camden Yards, which came after the Orioles led by five in the third inning, doesn’t even do it justice. All these two teams had in common Friday was the baseball — and that’s even with the Orioles’ 12 runs flattering to deceive.
They scored early and often because debuting center fielder Cedric Mullins, batting ninth, twice turned the lineup over to continue big four-run innings. They couldn’t stop Boston from scoring because they traded their best defenders and lost their best relievers to trades and injuries.
What’s left? A team that fell to a league-worst 35-81 was thoroughly beaten on a night when its Opening Day starter, Dylan Bundy, couldn’t make eight runs of support stand up, and the relievers that followed him were just as ineffective.
“Ten walks certainly don’t help,” manager Buck Showalter said. “I think we had the same number of hits they did, but the walks are what you look back on. That was obviously the difference in the game. Guys that are swinging the bat well, you’ve got to attack them.”
Orioles pitchers simply didn’t have the command, or the confidence, to do that Friday. They were beaten in a season of beatings, and in falling 46½ games behind the Red Sox with 46 games to go, tied the modern-day record for the earliest elimination from contention to win a division title.
Before all the Orioles’ bad traits emerged, their one new bright spot defined the game. Mullins doubled home a run in his first at-bat during the Orioles’ four-run second inning, following a solo home run by Chris Davis and before Adam Jones scored Mullins and Caleb Joseph on a two-out single.
That reversed what had been a 3-0 Orioles deficit on Xander Bogaerts’ three-run home run in the first inning. By the time Mullins came up again in the third inning, the Orioles were building a big lead of their own. The rookie center fielder had two on with a run already in when he singled off the glove of second baseman Brock Holt for his second run-scoring hit of the day, and like the previous time, he scored from second on a single to extend the Orioles’ lead to 8-3.
That was about as good as it got.
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Boston pulled two back in the fourth when Jackie Bradley Jr. hit an RBI triple and scored on a passed ball. After Bundy stranded two in a tense fifth, Holt hit the first pitch of the sixth inning out to right field to spark a nightmare inning for the Orioles. A base hit and a walk later, Bundy was done. Miguel Castro then issued three walks — one intentional and one with the bases loaded — around a force out at the plate and a sacrifice fly to tie the score.
Donnie Hart issued a bases-loaded walk of his own, then allowed a two-run single off shortstop Tim Beckham’s glove, and all of a sudden the Orioles trailed. It was the fourth straight game the Orioles lost a lead they carried into the sixth inning, losing three such games at the Tampa Bay Rays this week.
“We had a lot of walks tonight, especially me,” said Bundy, who walked four and allowed eight runs (seven earned) in five-plus innings. “I’ve got to cut those down. That’s not really acceptable. … You just can’t leave balls over the middle of the plate. You’ve just got to try to hit the corners, and if you miss the corner, then you walk guys. You leave it over the plate and it gets hit hard, or you walk them. I’ve just got to walk that fine line and hit the corners like I know I can do.”
A three-run seventh inning off Hart and a five-run eighth off Evan Phillips and Tanner Scott made the Orioles’ mild comeback attempts in the form of home runs by Beckham in the sixth and Mark Trumbo in the eighth moot. Mullins closed the book with a double and a run scored in the ninth on Jonathan Villar’s single. Mullins finished with three hits, including two doubles, three runs scored, two RBIs and a walk.
Scott’s 1-2-3 ninth inning was the only time the Orioles retired Boston in order all night. Showalter wants more of that than the timid outings that preceded it.
“We’re going to use those opportunities to try to see if people can come forward and present themselves,” Showalter said. “They’ll get an opportunity. You watch Tanner’s second inning compared to his first inning . … Sometimes, you’re trying to keep them out of harm’s way and try [not to] expose them as much as you can, but they’re going to need to take advantage of the opportunities along the way because it’s a very competitive business for all of us.”
The 19 runs they allowed were the most the Orioles have given up since the Minnesota Twins scored 19 on them July 16, 2012.