Five hits on opening day, three last night and three more today - the last two coming in the ninth inning.
The Orioles didn’t trend in the right direction in the first series of the 2018 season and proved again that momentum in baseball is the next day’s starting pitcher. And the one after that. Walk-off home runs don’t influence the rest of the schedule.
Fortunate to avoid a sweep by the Twins, the Orioles lost today 7-0 and dropped the last two games of the series.
Twins right-hander José Berríos retired 18 in a row after Chance Sisco’s two-out double in the third inning - a ball that left fielder Eddie Rosario should have caught near the fence. He put up his glove and whiffed.
Sisco was the lone baserunner for the Orioles until his bunt single with one out in the ninth that was followed by Chris Davis’ walk and Manny Machado’s single to load the bases. Jonathan Schoop popped up and Adam Jones struck out.
Berríos tossed a 107-pitch masterpiece, the first shutout and complete game of his career. His stuff was so nasty, he broke two Schoop bats in the same plate appearance in the seventh inning.
“He had a good,” said manager Buck Showalter, who’s club was shut out by all three Twins starters. “Sharp breaking ball, pitched up in the zone and down with the fastball, good changeup. Very much like (Kyle) Gibson last night in a lot of ways. He was solid.
“We caught all three pitchers on top of their game. He’d only thrown I think five innings was his top all spring, but his pitch count was so low. He was good. Really good.”
Kevin Gausman couldn’t come close to matching him, allowing three home runs in the first three innings and being charged with six runs and seven hits in four frames. He also threw two wild pitches.
“I think it’s just command of the fastball in the zone,” Showalter said. “Wasn’t as crisp as he was in the spring. But get that first one behind you. We’ve just had trouble keeping the ball in the park the last couple of days. They’re a really good team with really good pitching. I’m glad to see somebody else get a hold of them for a while.”
Brian Dozier hit Gausman’s first pitch over the left field fence and it went downhill from there.
Gausman’s fastball was 89-91 mph early before he began touching 95 late in his outing. Showalter shrugged it off, saying he wasn’t concerned.
“You look back at the command and where the balls were and where he was trying to throw them,” Showalter said. “The first ball of the game (was supposed to be down and away and it was middle-middle. It was right in his wheelhouse. Actually a little bit down, which is really where he hits the ball well. Kevin’s been real effective last year at that velocity, so it’s more about location and command of pitches. Just wasn’t very crisp.”
Trying to get Gausman’s first half to match his second has become one of the club’s primary tasks. Gausman also has made it a priority.
“It’s one game,” Showalter said. “Let’s see what the next one brings and the next one brings and the next one brings. It’s one game against a really good team and I know how people think the past is always going to repeat. It doesn’t.
“Kevin’s a good pitcher. He showed that last year and the year before. He’ll have some good outings ahead of him in the first half.”
The lineup produced five runs and 11 hits in three games and sparked the usual debate over how much blame is placed at the feet of the offense and how much at the opposing pitchers.
“Well, we’re getting on our heels right away with being down 4-0 before you get in the dugout,” Showalter said. “They’re pitching real well. I’ve got some thoughts about it a little bit, but when you back through it like we have, it’s really quality pitching. Good pitching will make you look a little, I don’t want to say ‘flat,’ just not very sharp offensively.
“When you see that many guys having trouble, you know it’s the pitching. And we’re getting ready to face more good pitchers (in Houston). It’s the big leagues. A lot of one and two starters.”
Davis, the leadoff hitter for the Twins series, went 0-for-12 with two walks (one intentional) and one strikeout, and Showalter will contemplate lowering him in the order. Other changes could come, as well.
“Like I told you, I’m not married to it, but we certainly are looking for something to try to get him going a little bit early in the season,” Showalter said. “It hasn’t been the case so far, but like I said when we first started talking about it, we’ll look at it, step back and see cause and effect or whatever you want to call it.
“We’re always looking for ways to get better. But Chris is not the only one right now three games into the season with 159 left that’s not exactly doing what we know they’re going to do.
“We’re trying to present something for the individual that helps the team and so far that hasn’t been the case. Like I said, we’ll continue to look at it as each game comes. I’ll probably talk with three or four of our guys where we are right now on the plane.”
Talking until exhausted won’t do much good if the Orioles keep falling behind by large margins.
“I think because of some of the challenges we had last year, it is something I’m sure ... but I’m sure our guys are mature enough to know those things have a way of changing real quickly,” Showalter said. “We’ve got between Andrew (Cashner) and Alex (Cobb) and our other guys ... We know Chris is capable of better. We hope that starts tomorrow.
“We’re going to hold onto the thought that these guys are going to not have a situation like that as often as we did last year. Last couple of days it’s been like that, though.”