The Orioles tonight ended a season-opening stretch where they played all five American League playoff teams from last season. To say the least, they didn’t handle it well.
Tonight’s 2-1 loss to Cleveland was the latest flat game for the offense. The Orioles have lost nine of 10 of 11 of 13 to begin the year at 6-17.
They scored just seven runs on 21 hits in losing three of four to Cleveland. They have scored three runs or fewer 16 times in 23 games.
I asked first baseman Chris Davis if it is fair to question the team’s offensive approach? Tonight Cleveland right-hander Carlos Carrasco needed just 38 pitches to get through four innings and just 81 in going 7 1/3 to get the victory and improve to 4-0.
“I think a lot of it is just guys going up there trying to do too much,” Davis said. “Knowing that our starters are throwing the ball well and knowing that these are games we need to win and should be winning. You go up there and try to do too much. I think that is really the case one through nine and we’ve got to find some way to get away from that. Understand that, you don’t have to do everything by yourself. Hitting is contagious. You see innings where we get one or two guys on and we kind of start to get the ball rolling. We’ve got to do more of that.”
It was frustrating as the Orioles wasted another solid starting pitching performance. Right-hander Kevin Gausman allowed four hits and two runs over eight innings, yet took a loss and is 1-2 with a 4.66 ERA.
“I think frustrating is probably the best word to describe the feeling of our offense,” David said. “There is no doubt we are facing good pitching, but we’ve had some outstanding outings from our pitching. It’s tough when you can’t push runs across for those guys.”
The Orioles have scored just 19 runs at home and are 3-7 in 10 games at Camden Yards. They began this game with a slash line of .171/.256/.289 at home and they had just seven hits tonight, going 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
It seems the season is getting away from the Orioles before April is over.
“I don’t think so,” Davis added. “I mean, obviously we can’t keep going in the direction we are headed right now. Our starters have been doing more than their jobs and our offense has to take a little pressure off those guys and get them some runs early.”
Gausman gave up a two-run homer to Yonder Alonso in the second and then retired 21 of the next 23 he faced. It was his longest outing since going eight last Sept. 19 versus Boston. Since allowing six runs in his season debut, his ERA is 3.24 his past four starts.
He seemed to be getting stronger as the game went and threw 107 pitches, 75 for strikes.
“Absolutely,” Gausman said. “Fastball command is huge for me, especially glove-side. They have a lot of left-handed hitters. I knew it was going to be a big pitch for me. It felt like that particular pitch, it got better and better as the game went on.”
Showing his best velocity of the year, he averaged 94 mph on his fastball and walked one and fanned seven. Last April Gausman pitched to a 7.50 ERA. He wanted to start better this year and he has.
“Obviously wish I didn’t give up the home run,” he said. “That was really the one pitch that I left out over the plate. Unfortunately that hurt me but compared to where I was at this time last year, huge difference. Second start with my mechanics, going over the head, felt really confident and comfortable with it. Yeah, I feel good.”
His night included an immaculate inning. One where he struck out the side on nine pitches, which were all strikes. He did that in the seventh getting Alonso, Yan Gomes and Bradley Zimmer.
“I didn’t realize it until I got in the dugout. They were a little more pumped up than they’d normally be,” Gausman said. “Told me I tied Major League history or something. I did it in college once before. But to do it in the big leagues is obviously a little different.”
The Orioles are mounting up on injuries as well as losses. They are missing Jonathan Schoop and Trey Mancini missed a few games and tonight Tim Beckham suffered a groin injury and he’s also been bothered by a sore Achilles.
“Obviously those guys are big for us and have been in the past, but we understand we have to get the job done without them,” Davis added. “And we’ve got guys capable of stepping up. We’ve got a group of guys that have been around for a lot of years wanting to be the guy to start it. And trying to do too much.”
Tonight they ended this run of games versus 2017 playoff teams winning just one of five series and going 5-12 against Minnesota, Houston, New York, Boston and Cleveland.
“If we consider ourselves a playoff team, we’ve got to compete with those teams. Whether it is early or late in the year,” Davis said.