Orioles manager Buck Showalter didn’t decide to become trendy and go with an “opener” instead of a traditional starter against the Blue Jays. It was done out of necessity with injuries and innings limits forcing his hand. And he avoided the term as if it were contagious.
A reliever stood on the mound tonight after the playing of both anthems. Call it what you want.
Evan Phillips made his first major league start and second as a professional in front of an intimate gathering that waited out a 30-minute rain delay before first pitch.
Fans were invited to move down to the lower bowl. None were given tryouts, but these are desperate times.
Phillips retired the first five batters he faced, but the Blue Jays scored three runs before he notched the final out in the second inning and the Orioles lost their 107th game of the season 5-0 before an announced crowd of 8,198 at Camden Yards.
The Orioles have tied the 1988 edition for most losses in club history with 12 games remaining. They’re also moving closer to clinching the No. 1 pick in next year’s amateur draft.
Tonight marked the 15th time that the Orioles have been shut out and the third on this homestand.
Phillips struck out the first two batters he faced, his fastball at 93-94 mph and a mid-80s slider disposing of Lourdes Gurriel Jr. He didn’t top 90 mph in the second, and left-hander Sean Gilmartin replaced him after Kevin Pillar doubled with two outs and scored on Rowdy Tellez’s single, Danny Jansen launched a two-run homer to left field and Richard Ureña flied out.
The 25 pitches thrown by Phillips equaled the amount he totaled in an Aug. 3 appearance in Texas that also lasted two innings. Seventeen of his pitches tonight were strikes, a few of them a little too good.
Gilmartin retired 14 of 16 batters while working 4 2/3 innings, falling an out short of his career high set on Oct. 1, 2015 with the Mets. Kevin Pillar hit a solo homer with one out in the seventh for a 4-0 lead.
Cody Carroll replaced Gilmartin in the type of bullpen game churned out by the Rays and Athletics. Showalter really wants to avoid it in the future, though he hasn’t decided on a Wednesday starter to close out the series.
“Necessity is the mother of invention,” he said earlier today. “That’s kind of where Tampa was and where we are.”
The A’s are in contention and the Rays began tonight 16 games above .500, but they’ve had to go with an unconventional approach.
“I don’t know what that’s saying about the state of pitching in baseball today,” Showalter said. “Think about it. It’s happening a lot and it’s happening in September.”
Left-hander Ryan Borucki shut out the Orioles on three hits over eight innings. He walked one batter, struck out seven and retired 15 of the last 16.
Renato Núñez and John Andreoli singled with no outs in the third, but Austin Wynns almost hit into a triple play, with shortstop Lourdes Gurriel Jr. dropping a soft liner before starting a 6-4-3 double play. A high throw to third base enabled Núñez to slide in safely.
(Umpires ruled that Gurriel didn’t lose control of the ball on purpose, which makes it a double play in the scorebook, if anyone really cares.)
Davis is 1-for-25 with 11 strikeouts in his last seven games.
A shot up the middle in the seventh inning knocked the glove off Borucki’s hand, but he gathered the ball behind the mound and threw out Davis.
Aledmys Díaz homered off Carroll with two outs in the ninth. Carroll retired seven of eight batters with four strikeouts.
The Orioles are 4-13 against the Jays this season with two games left to play.
Showalter on whether 107 losses is hard to wrap his head around: “I’ve got too many things and people depending on me to do certain things between now and the end of the season. I think because it’s unpleasant to wrap around, probably I’m as guilty as anybody of staying tunnel vision about what we’re doing every day trying to do what’s best. So, if that’s an answer to your question.”
Showalter on pitching: “I thought everybody did a good job. Evan went out there after a long layoff and got us five quick outs. Thought he was going to have a good two-inning stint there. Sean and Carroll also were good. Five runs, you see that at the end of the day, but ... Sean’s been doing a pretty good job out of that role for a while now. But you know that’s one of the advantages, it kind of sets up the lineup for Sean, too, because they’ve got seven guys in there you want a left-hander against. Reverse splits and some switch-hitters you want to turn around. But he pitched well regardless. That was fun to watch. Usually with him, he gets that first hitter or so under his belt and settles in and gets to use his repertoire. Much like their guy.”
Showalter on whether it went as he hoped besides loss: “We’re in a lot better shape. I had those guys and Donnie Hart tonight. And Mychal (Givens) in a winning situation. And some guys we could push the envelope on, but I’d rather not do it this time of year. Especially with the innings and the history and everything that we do and should know about. But I’d like to go into it and win a game, but if you had told me going into it that we were going to be able to get those types of contributions from those three guys, you would have been OK with that.”
Showalter on Borucki: “You know, I’ll give him credit. I thought we did a nice job of adjusting to him last time over there. We’ve seen enough of him. He’s a 15th-round pick, I believe, out of an Illinois high school. Turned 23, 24 early in the season. He commands three or four pitches and makes you honor all of them when he’s got that thing going. And we really let him really get into a rhythm and a tempo and he took advantage of a lot of borderline pitches. There were two or three strike threes that were debatable.
“He’s around the plate. A changeup, breaking ball, commanded the fastball. He’s a good-looking young pitcher. I was looking at his track record ... it’s a pretty good blueprint except for a little elbow issues he had. I know he had 150 innings tops coming into last season and he’s at 150 this year, so he’s right where he needs to be. He’s a good-looking young pitcher.”
Davis on 107 losses: “It’s frustrating to say the least. Once we hit 100, it was kind of like ... I don’t know, I honestly didn’t have any words for it. It was embarrassing. It was frustrating. It’s one of those things you never want to be associated with, but at the same time, you’ve got to learn how to turn the page and start somewhere. Why not start now?
“I’m not sure where we’re headed, but at some point you’ve just got to change it up, I guess.”