Orioles offense can't back Burnes in 3-0 loss to Nationals (updated)

WASHINGTON – Orioles starting pitchers were bound to do more than just a little bending. Even the tiniest cracks had to form.

The rotation had gone 22 consecutive innings without allowing a run until Joey Meneses’ hit-and-run single tonight in the second that plated Jesse Winker.

Corbin Burnes didn’t surrender another hit or run until the seventh. Light damage that weighed heavier with no offensive support.

The Nationals scored twice in the inning to provide insurance that wasn’t necessary in a 3-0 win over the Orioles before an announced crowd of 29,542.

The Orioles had allowed two runs or fewer in seven straight games, their longest streak since August 1980. But Meneses led off the seventh with a double and scored with one out on Eddie Rosario’s single, and another Nationals stolen base set up Trey Lipscomb’s RBI single and Burnes’ removal at 95 pitches.

Ryan O'Hearn took a called third strike in the ninth and was ejected by plate umpire Alex Tosi. Manager Brandon Hyde came out to argue and also was tossed.

The night wasn't going to get any better for the visitors.

"I think he voiced his displeasure there," Hyde said.

In words and tone that were building from the beginning.

"I just lost my cool," O'Hearn said. "There were a few strikes called on me that I really didn't like going back to the first inning, going back to the first pitch, actually. And then I sat in the dugout and watched it happen to our guys all night. (Colton) Cowser had a really bad one 3-2. Multiple. And it's hard to tell as players because we don't get the K zone anymore on the iPads, but it got to the point where it was just bad. He was calling balls outside the K zone strikes and I got pissed off and decided to say something about it. First career ejection, I'm not proud of it, but it is what it is.

"If you look at it, where the pitches came in, we'll just take that at-bat for an example, the pitch before it he called a ball was less inside. It was more toward the plate than that one. So when I see where a pitch is and I go, 'OK, that's ball there,' and then he throws one a little bit further inside and he bangs me on that one, that's pretty irritating."

An inconsistent and moving zone begs for a better system, like the ability to review calls in Triple-A.

"Maybe the challenge system would be cool to be able to have some say," O'Hearn said. "I mean, we do this every day, so we have a good understanding of where the strike zone is. A lot of hitters know when they're getting screwed, it seems like, and it would be cool to be able to challenge it."

Trevor Williams shut out the Orioles for five innings, with two hits, no walks and eight strikeouts, but exited after 77 pitches.

"I just think the ability to change speeds and really live on the edge," Hyde said. "We just couldn't get anything going against them offensively. A crafty righty. He did a nice job. Fastball's 91 but it plays up because the other stuff is strikes and he keeps the ball down really well."

"He was getting a lot of calls around the edges," O'Hearn said. "Kept us off balance. And offensively, one of those nights where we couldn't get anything going."

The Nationals began the day leading the majors in stolen bases – 14 of the 17 position players used contributed to that total - and they swiped two bags within the first two innings and finished with four. Winker led off the second with a single, stole second and came home on the Meneses single. Jordan Westburg saved another run with a sliding stop and throw to rob Lipscomb.

"That's a really, really aggressive team and if they get a chance they're going to be aggressive," Hyde said. "They took advantage of us tonight."

"I've got to be able to sync up and command the zone and throw strikes," Burnes said. "If I'm going to walk guys and make bad pitches, it doesn't matter what I'm doing holding runners. I've got to do a better job of attacking the zone, getting ahead early, quit walking guys and letting them steal bases."

Burnes struck out three batters in the first on his slider, changeup and curveball. Luis García Jr. walked with two outs and stole second base in a 17-pitch inning. Burnes also issued walks with two outs in the third and fifth innings, the latter followed by a balk on a disengagement violation.

Three of the next four Nationals struck out to raise Burnes’ total to six on 85 pitches, and he came back out for the seventh.

Burnes retired 15 of 17 batters before Meneses’ double. The Orioles haven’t scored a run with him in the game in the last 14 1/3 innings, and tonight marked their second shutout loss.

The final line showed three runs and five hits with three walks and six strikeouts in 6 1/3 to leave his ERA at 2.83.

"I thought I actually threw the ball well for six innings," Burnes said. "Came out in the seventh and made a couple mistakes and they hit them. Overall, I was pretty happy with how the first six innings went. Attacking the zone. We had to adjust. They were really aggressive and I thought we did a good job of adjusting and getting some quick outs and getting the pitch count back where we wanted to."

Adley Rutschman lined a single into center field in the first inning and stole his first base of the season. He has a hit in 16 of 17 games, with his average during that stretch at .380 following his single.

The Orioles didn’t get another hit until Jordan Westburg’s one-out single in the fifth. Westburg reached on an error with two outs in the second and Williams retired eight in a row.

García made a leaping catch of a 97.8 mph liner in the fifth to rob Ramón Urías and strand Westburg. And that was it for Williams, who lowered his ERA to 1.96 and still hasn’t surrendered a home run in seven starts over 36 2/3 innings.

The bullpen retired seven in a row before Cedric Mullins’ single off former Orioles reliever Hunter Harvey with one out in the eighth. Pinch-hitter Heston Kjerstad struck out and Gunnar Henderson lined to right field at 108 mph.

Jacob Webb issued a leadoff walk in the eighth and two more batters reached against Keegan Akin, who left the bases loaded.

The Orioles had won seven in a row against the Nationals. A loss on Wednesday ends the Orioles' sweepless streak in the regular season at 102 series.

* Austin Hays began his injury rehab assignment tonight at Double-A Bowie with a two-run homer in the first inning.

Samuel Basallo led off with a single and Hays cleared the left field fence for his first 2024 home run. His five hits with the Orioles are singles.

Hays played left field for five innings and went 2-for-3 with a strikeout, walk, single and three runs scored.

Jud Fabian hit a three-run homer in the fifth.

Alex Pham allowed one run and one hit in five innings with no walks and six strikeouts.

* Kyle Stowers hit his 11th home run for Triple-A Norfolk, a two-run shot in the first inning. Jackson Holliday led off with a single and scored on Connor Norby’s double.

Stowers, who lifted a sacrifice fly in the second inning, has 50 career Triple-A homers to tie Clint Hurdle for the second-most in Norfolk history. Gary Rajsich is first with 52.

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