The Orioles, Rays and Blue Jays lost tonight. The American League East may avoid a major shakeup.
Bud Norris tied his career high with four home runs allowed over six innings in an 8-1 loss to the Rangers before 21,565 at Camden Yards.
A 15-game winner in 2014, Norris sliipped to 2-7 with a 6.79 ERA in 11 starts this season.
“He made some mistakes with his breaking ball,” said manager Buck Showalter. “Gave us six innings. It was a challenge, but kind of kept us from having to do too much in the bullpen, being a little short there, so that was a positive I’ll take out of it. Just inconsistent with his breaking ball. A couple good ones, but he got hurt on the ones he left out there.”
How do the Orioles get Norris to regain the consistency that allowed him to put up career highs - the good kind - across the board last season?
“That’s what we’re trying to do,” Showalter said. “He has some periods where he’s pitched well, but not as consistent as he did for a long period of time last year and will again. I try to keep in mind we haven’t even played half the season yet and Bud will do some good things for us.
“Tonight was a challenge for him, but we didn’t do a whole lot offensively, either. Their guy (Wandy Rodriguez) did a little better job of taking advantage of some things that were there for pitchers tonight.”
In other words, a strike zone from plate umpire John Hirschbeck that measured the size of Texas.
Showalter doesn’t sound prepared to make a change in the rotation as the Orioles try to repeat as division champions.
“Bud wants to win every game, too,” he said. “We were talking about this. They control that. (Chris) Tillman has had some challenges and Chris came back and pitched well. Bud’s had some tough losses when he’s pitched well. You get opportunities, and some of the challenges have been self-inflicted and he’s got to figure it out.
“Opportunties, they’re always going to be there for the most part when you have a track record like him, but he understands the competitive part of it and nobody wants to do it more than Bud.”
Showalter wasn’t buying that perhaps the Orioles were due for a clunker after winning 18 of their last 23 games.
“Never think that way. Never,” he said. “Nothing’s ever due and ho-hum and que sera, it was just one of those things. Every game is dictated by the tempo set by starting pitching and you kind of go from there. We were on the field a long time tonight. Very challenging. You had a day like yesterday, and guys responded well.
“I will tip my hat that he got through six innings, even though he could have come out a few times. But obviously, like Wally (Dave Wallace) told him, where we are with the bullpen we really need to get some innings out of him. We knew they were going to be very left-handed. We knew it 10 days ago. You’ve got to defend yourself against left-handed hitters to have success against them.”
Norris gave up seven home runs in his first 10 starts before the Rangers belted four tonight.
“Changeup was up,” Showalter said. “Breaking ball stayed there. He threw one real good breaking ball and came back with another and left it middle-in. Good hitters at this level are going to make you pay for that.
“We had an opportunity to get back in the game there. Stevie (Pearce) had a real good opportunity. If we could have kept it there at 5-1, I thought we could make a run at them, but I just thought their starting pitcher took better advantage of things that were there for pitchers than ours did.”
Joey Gallo’s three-run triple off Tommy Hunter in the seventh inning broke open the game, and the Orioles couldn’t catch a break from Hirschbeck, who would have called a strike if the ball were rolled to the plate.
Pearce and Ryan Flaherty were just two of the Orioles who openly showed their disgust, which is unusual coming from them.
“Nobody is mild-mannered. They’re just respectful of the game. They get frustrated, too,” Showalter said.
“Certain umpires come in with a reputation for hunting strikes, so you have to take advantage of it on both sides of the ball. I’ve known John a long time. There are so many pitches during a game that can go ball or strike. We had some people that had real credibility. It’s frustrating for them, especially when you’re trying to get back in that game.”