CLEVELAND - The Orioles are starting two rookies in their weekend series against the Indians, who continue to lead the American League Central by a wide margin and ran their winning streak to six games tonight.
David Hess took the mound for the opener and Yefry Ramírez closes out the series on Sunday afternoon. There will be moments that encourage and reminders that the jump from Triple-A to the majors is the largest in sports, as manager Buck Showalter has stated on many occasions.
Patience is a necessity, along with a bullpen that carries an extra reliever.
Hess threatened to make an early exit tonight, surrendering José Ramírez’s two-run homer in the first inning and loading the bases in the third. Pitching coach Roger McDowell paid him a visit. A crowd announced at 28,264 made loud noises.
And then Hess made an impression, completing six innings for his first quality start in more than two months in the Orioles’ 2-1 loss at Progressive Field.
The Orioles are 36-86 overall, an astounding 50 games below .500, and 15-46 on the road.
Hess blanked the Indians after the first, working around three of his four walks and a hit batter. He held them to five hits in six innings and threw 97 pitches.
New leadoff hitter Cedric Mullins went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. He worked the count full in the first inning against Carlos Carrasco and flied to right field and struck out against Miller with the count full in the eighth.
Carrasco disposed of the last 10 Orioles he faced to keep the shutout intact. He loaded the bases in the fourth, but Joey Rickard struck out, and he retired the Orioles in order in the fifth, sixth and seventh.
Hess walked Michael Brantley with one out in the first and Ramírez launched his 37th home run of the season for a quick 2-0 lead. Hess was aided by a double play that ended the first and another in the third after Greg Allen’s leadoff single, but a walk, hit batter and walk loaded the bases for Yonder Alonso.
Showalter can learn a lot about a young pitcher from how he responds to this type of crisis. Alonso worked the count full and struck out on a slider to leave Hess at 53 pitches.
A single and walk put Hess in another jam with one out in the fifth, but Yandy Díaz struck out looking at a 90 mph fastball and Alonso grounded a 73 mph curveball to Chris Davis, who flipped to Hess covering the bag.
Miguel Castro began to warm with Hess at 89 pitches and six Indians stranded. Showalter often notes how a starter finishes up and Hess retired the side in order in the sixth on eight pitches.
Hess hadn’t completed six innings since his June 7 start in Toronto. It also marked the last of his four quality starts until tonight.
Castro worked two scoreless innings, retiring five of the six batters he faced. Francisco Lindor singled with one out in the seventh and Rickard threw him out as he tried for the double.
Showalter on Hess showing him something by escaping jams: “He was close there to getting away from him, but you look for separators in all players - position players, what separates them - and David tonight it was just his will. Command was almost 50-50 balls and strikes again, but I thought his best inning was the last inning. His confidence grew a little bit.
“I thought we played one of our better games defensively. (Jonathan) Villar made a lot of plays at second, very quietly Ced cut off a ball that not many people cut off, went back and got some balls effortlessly, Rickard made a good throw to second base. It was one of our better defensive games. Chris turned a big double play for us early that I thought got David on his feet a little bit. But still like to see the command be better.”
Showalter on strikeout to end third instilling more confidence in Hess: “It’s a ball, but Caleb made him keep pitching instead of start throwing. It’s one of the things we talked with him about after his last start. You can’t ever stop pitching. Throwing that pitch, guy’s thinking with some of his command there’s no way he’s going to throw him anything, so he sold out to the fastball and didn’t recognize the (slider).”
Showalter on chance to get Carrasco out of game in fourth: “I thought at the time with the pitch count we had him at that we might, but getting to their bullpen is no treat, either. They’ve got so many weapons down there and they added to it.
“That’s why they’re in first place. They’re one of the best clubs in baseball and they’ve got a great guy in Terry (Francona) who knows how to use the weapons. So, you get in a close game like that, you’ve got to get a hit. Joey hit a ball right on the button right at the left fielder.”
Hess on making more quality pitches tonight: “There were a couple innings I threw more pitches than I’d like to. But I think at the end of the day, pitch count wasn’t too high, but I think it was more about the quality of the pitches than the quantity today.”
Hess on striking out Alonso being a highlight: “Absolutely. I think going forward that’s something that gives you a lot of confidence, not only to throw that pitch, but for that pitch to be called to begin with. That’s a big spot, so for Caleb to have that trust in me, and especially in that pitch, that means a lot. And I think going forward that will show itself.”
Hess on importance of going six innings: “Absolutely. I mean, every time out there you want to give your team a quality start and a chance to win. Unfortunately that first inning, the home run really prevented a lot of things from happening. But it was a good step forward and it’s a good building block. So we’re going to look to continue to build on it.”
Hess on getting back on track: “Right now, there’s really no question that opportunities are there, so it’s a good opportunity to go out and show what I can do. With the group of guys we have going forward, we’re trying to come together as a team and really find ways to win. So, I think anytime I have an opportunity to contribute to that, it really does mean a lot to be able to do that. Really just going forward that’s what we are looking at.
Davis on Carrasco: “I think that was kind of our approach as an offense going in, try to make him throw as many pitches early as we could for strikes and really just try to grind him out and get into their bullpen. He did a great job of hanging in there, keeping us off-balance, mixing up his pitches, and I think we were able to scratch together a few hits but weren’t really able to get a run across there until late.
“I’m proud of the way the guys battled, proud of the way David hung in there and really showed what he was made of. I think this time of year for us, obviously, not playing for the postseason, but really learning a lot about some of these younger guys. Seeing those guys get a chance to compete at this level and really learn on the fly, it’s a lot of fun. I was proud of the way we hung in there and gave ourselves a chance to win. We just came up a little short.”
Davis on Hess: “I think the biggest thing was just not giving in. early in the game, they got a few guys on. Obviously gave up the two-run home run to Ramírez, but really gritted his teeth there with the bases loaded, got a big strikeout and just continued to battle and give us a chance to win the ballgame.”
Davis on 50 games under .500: “It’s not good. We know that it’s not good. We know that every night we go out there, we’ve got to find something to play for and really find something to hang our hats on. For this club right now, as young as we are, having some new faces in here, that’s got to be our focus to go out and learn and try to find something to build on to carry momentum into the offseason.”