The Orioles have not inched closer and closer to a dubious major league record. They have rocketed toward it, much like the balls off their opponents’ bats that have this rebuilding club holding another infamous mark.
The New York Yankees hit three more home runs off Orioles pitchers in Tuesday night’s 11-4 victory, making Baltimore the fastest club in major league history to allow 100 home runs. By doing so in 48 games, they beat the 2000 Kansas City Royals to the century mark by nine contests.
"We're facing good teams, but you've got to pitch,” Orioles manager Brandon Hyde said. “You've got to pitch here, stay off the barrel. You've got to be able to locate, and if you don't, in a hitters’ ballpark, against guys that mash, you're going to give up 100 homers 40-something games into it."
A major league-high 17 have come off David Hess, with the 25-year-old right-hander surrendering Wednesday’s trio to allow the most home runs through nine starts in franchise history. Hess completed five innings on a season-high 106 pitches but forfeited a career-high nine runs.
“That’s, simply put, not good enough,” Hess said. “I think that kinda goes without saying.”
Since holding the Toronto Blue Jays hitless in 6 1/3 innings in his first start of the year, Hess has an 8.27 ERA, allowing a home run in all but one outing and multiple homers in all but three.
Hess was temporarily moved to the bullpen late last month as the Orioles (15-33) sought a role to build his confidence, but starter Alex Cobb was placed on the injured list before Hess made a relief appearance. In four starts after rejoining the rotation, Hess has allowed 21 runs in 19 1/3 innings.
Although Hyde would like to find a way to give Hess a reprieve from blows to his confidence every five days, whether that’s in the bullpen or the minors, the rebuilding Orioles lack the pitching depth in the upper minors to simply replace him with someone else.
“We just don't have the numbers,” Hyde said. “We don't have the depth and, yeah, I don't like seeing guys get beat up.
“It's what we’ve got right now. It's not from lack of effort or lack of competitiveness. I don't like to see guys getting beat up. I don't like seeing guys give up homers. But they're all getting the opportunity to bounce back from tough starts.”
The first Bronx bomb of the night was almost predictable, with Gary Sánchez clubbing a three-run home run off a slider from Hess three batters into the game a night after hitting a go-ahead shot off Mychal Givens. It was Sanchez’s eighth of the year off the Orioles, tying him for the most in the American League against a single opponent with teammate Gleyber Torres, who reached eight against the Orioles with two Monday.
Clint Frazier matched Torres’ multihomer feat with a two-run shot in the third and a three-run blast in the fifth Tuesday. Both came off Hess, who the Yankees (30-17) have been troublesome for. He pitched two scoreless innings of relief against them on Opening Day — an outing that prompted Hyde to pull him after 82 pitches in the subsequent no-hit bid in Toronto — but in three starts against New York, he has allowed 10 home runs in 16 innings with a 9.56 ERA.
“It is very draining, just because there’s a clubhouse of guys in here that I care about a ton, and so to have that feeling of not going out and getting the job done for them just as much as anything else, that really does wear you down,” Hess said. “But really, that’s also the thing that keeps you going, knowing the guys that are here care about one another, and they want to see me get through it just as much as I do. Really, without them, I think this would be a lot more difficult than it has been.”
Wilkerson provides O’s offense
Hyde’s lineup experimentation continued Tuesday, with Stevie Wilkerson getting plugged into the leadoff spot a night after Hanser Alberto batted there.
Monday, Hyde went with Alberto because he entered batting .385 against left-handed pitchers like New York’s J.A. Happ. Alberto backed up the decision with a home run amid a 4-for-5 night that raised his average against lefties to .442, the best in the majors among qualified hitters.
With right-hander Domingo Germán on the mound, Hyde went with the switch-hitting Wilkerson and his .344 average against righties atop the order. Wilkerson struck out in his first two at-bats against Germán, coming up with the bases empty both times. But when he stepped to the plate with runners on the corner in the fifth after Alberto was hit by a pitch and Austin Wynns reached on an error by Germán, Wilkerson drove an inside 91.5 mph fastball out to right field for a three-run home run.
“I love hitting leadoff,” Wilkerson said. “I’ve done it a decent amount in my career in the minor leagues. I like hitting leadoff, but I like just being in the lineup. I don’t care where I’m at.”
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The Orioles’ fourth run came when Chris Davis began the sixth with a double down the left-field line off David Hale and advanced home on two groundballs. Hale pitched the final four innings for New York to earn his first career save.