David Hess will test his memory tonight, along with his ability to make any adjustments that can prevent a repeat performance.
The rookie’s only major league dud came against tonight’s opponent, the Red Sox, in his first exposure to Fenway Park and one of baseball’s most potent offenses. He surrendered three home runs and five runs total in 4 2/3 innings and absorbed his first loss.
We’re going all the way back to May 20, when Hess followed up his stellar debut with an outing that left his ERA at 6.75 and his critics saying, “See what happens when he isn’t pitching against the Rays?”
Hess’ second win also came against Tampa Bay, but he held the Nationals and Blue Jays to one run over six innings in his next two starts, resulting in an undeserved loss and a no-decision. He’s allowed two runs in his last three games covering 18 2/3 innings and whittled his ERA down to 3.07.
Four quality starts in five opportunities.
Has Hess reflected on his failings against the Red Sox and plucked information that could be used to his advantage tonight?
“Yeah, absolutely,” he said yesterday after rising from his chair while declining a reporter’s suggestion to remain seated and relax.
“I think going into it that’s a big factor in how we approach (tonight) and what we’re going to try to do as far as game planning. But I think there’s always a lot you can learn from previous outings against teams, so I think using that to go forward and just trying to execute what we want to do, I think it will be good.”
I wouldn’t expect Hess to give away too much information that could leak back to his opponent. Just a general idea of what’s brewing.
“The last time, I think for the first four innings everything was going pretty well,” he said. “We were executing what we wanted. We used fastballs up effectively, but I think going forward it’s just seeing kind of what they have weaknesses in and use that and hopefully get some soft contact and let the defense work and get some good outs.”
Some runs would be nice, too. The Orioles lost 5-0, one of their seven shutouts this season, to extend their latest losing streak to five games. And Hess will be matched up again with left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who scattered nine hits over 5 2/3 innings and struck out seven batters on May 20.
J.D. Martinez homered twice off Hess, in the second and fifth innings, and Andrew Benintendi took him deep as part of a four-run fifth.
The Orioles outhit the Red Sox 13-12 and still lost. Still failed to score a run.
Chris Tillman remains at extended spring training and could report next week to short-season Single-A Aberdeen. The Orioles aren’t rushing him back to their rotation. Hess occupies his spot and is trying to hold onto it without feeling like he’s auditioning every time he’s handed the ball.
Meanwhile, that’s pretty much what’s happening here.
“I think every time I view it as each time I go out there I’m trying to earn more and more,” he said. “Regardless of how the outcome is, just having that mindset going in that each outing is an opportunity to show what I can do and that I belong here. So just kind of having that mentality of wanting to go out there and earn another start is what’s been key so far.”
While I spoke to Hess yesterday, I made the assumption that Mookie Betts would stay on the disabled list and head out on a rehab assignment. There was talk of having him play in Single-A Salem.
Because the Orioles can’t catch a break of any sort, Betts was activated yesterday and led off for the Red Sox in the series opener. He smoked the first pitch from Dylan Bundy to left field, but directly at Trey Mancnini, and went 1-for-5 before leaving the game.
“I was wondering if he was going to be back in there or not,” Hess said, smiling. “He can stay out this series. He can come back after that.”
Not the way this season is unfolding. Betts is expected to lead off again tonight. He doubled off Hess in Boston.
The Orioles were shut out for the seventh time last night, which marked the eighth extra-inning shutout in Camden Yards history. It’s mind-boggling that they’ve been held to one run or fewer in 19 games this season.
“It’s unusual that this many guys so far have not been as productive as they’re going to be or have been in the past,” said manager Buck Showalter. “Usually you don’t have that many at one time.”
Red Sox pitching recorded 14 strikeouts last night. The last seven outs came via strikeouts. The Orioles’ .226 average ranks last in the American League and 29th in the majors.
“The game’s changing and there’s a lot of different things going on and the snowballs are tougher to stop nowadays because they swing and miss so much,” Showalter said. “When you can get multiple guys going well, you’ve got a really good offense. When you’ve got multiple guys not going well, it’s a tough go. But I don’t ever look at an offseason and say, ‘OK, this is going to happen for sure. We can count on this. I’m more about what-ifs. What if this guy is hurt? What if this guy doesn’t do what we think he’s going to do? Where are we going? How are we going to manipulate through that?’ Because that’s part of managing through a baseball season, because you’re going to have the ups and downs.
“I certainly wasn’t expecting or hoping for some of the ones we’ve had this year so far.”