Orioles debutante Yefry Ramirez probably deserved better than the loss he took and the three runs on his account from his first big league start Wednesday against the Boston Red Sox.
But if he remains with the club for long past its 5-1 loss — which clinched the Orioles’ third seven-game losing streak and dropped them to 19-48 — he'll learn that life in this rotation can provide plenty of challenges that just pitching well doesn't solve.
Mookie Betts homered to center field with one out in the third inning, and both of the fifth-inning walks Ramirez issued ended up scoring off reliever Mike Wright Jr., but Ramirez otherwise avoided trouble, striking out six and coaxing plenty of weak contact from Boston's eager hitters.
“I thought he held his own, for the most part,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He gave us a chance.”
He was about the only one. His offense managed just four hits as his opposite, Chris Sale, had no trouble carving through the Orioles lineup.
Ramirez looked as though he'd be able to stay in stride with him for the first four innings, mostly thanks to a changeup that Red Sox batters couldn't pick up. He navigated most of his minor league career with success thanks to a changeup that many thought was a major league caliber pitch. His debut showed that at least on this day, it lived up to that billing.
Five of those strikeouts came on his changeup, which at one point topped out at 87 mph, and the pitch overall accounted for seven of the 13 outs he recorded before giving way to Wright. His 91-94-mph fastball, while not exactly expertly commanded, was also effective, jumping on hitters and causing plenty of lazy fly balls.
“I was proud of him,” Showalter said. “Tough lineup, and he competed, and didn’t implode and start walking a bunch of people. You can see the makings of some out pitches, and you can see why he’s won a lot of baseball games in his minor league career. I’m glad he got the opportunity.”
Ramirez, through interpreter Ramón Alarcón, said: “I definitely felt a little bit nervous when I was told I was opening. After the game [started], after a few pitches, after a few innings, I tried to settle down and calm my nerves and just try to concentrate on the same things I was able to do in Triple-A, to try to do it over here.”
That the Orioles made two errors and Ramirez hit a batter probably cut short his outing more than he'd want, and the final line of three runs on four hits in 4 1/3 innings with six strikeouts and two walks betrays how Ramirez fared for most of the day. He acknowledged tiring down the stretch.
“I think there was some fatigue to it as well,” Ramirez said. “I think at that point, I was trying to do too much and things weren't working — a combination of those two things.”
He stranded a runner in each of his four innings, and his six strikeouts were the most by a debuting Orioles pitcher since Wright fanned six on May 17, 2015.
But he would have had to be perfect to overcome the lack of support the Orioles offense gave against Sale, who was ejected in the seventh inning, and the dregs of the Boston bullpen, scraping across a run on a pair of walks and a sacrifice fly by Jace Peterson in the seventh inning and managing just four hits on the day.
Wright allowed a pair of his own runs in 2 2/3 innings, and after Richard Bleier left with an injury after recording the final out of the sixth and first out of the seventh, Brad Brach and Mychal Givens finished it out for the Orioles, who have dropped 14 of their past 16 games.