ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - The growing pains can be excruciating.
Left-hander Josh Rogers made his third major league start today and retired only four batters. Eight of them reached base. The final walk back to the dugout was slowed by the six-run deficit attached to him.
Jimmy Yacabonis regained control of the game, leaving the bases loaded in the second inning, but the Rays completed their sweep with an 8-3 victory at Tropicana Field that capped another disastrous trip for the Orioles.
The three-city swing ends with the Orioles going 1-8 and lowering their overall record to 41-102. They were outscored 32-10 over the weekend and have lost 12 of their last 13 road games and 29 of 34.
“We’ll meet Tuesday and go over a lot of game mistakes and see if we can keep from repeating them,” said manager Buck Showalter. “We made a lot of things that young players do, but also whether it’s Triple-A, Double-A or the big leagues, it’s not anything you can overlook.
“We’ve got a lot of things going on here that we’ve got to stay on top of. I see the same things that you do. It’s not that hard, but unfortunately a lot of guys come up here with statistics that say one thing and then this huge jump. The biggest jump in sports is the level of hitters and pitchers you see up here compared to the minor league and a lot of times you’re just trying to see, a lot of the constitution, how they respond to the first time somebody squares up something they haven’t been squaring up the level below them.”
The Orioles endured their 18th sweep of a completed series of two or more games, and the quality of play against the Rays left much to be desired.
“It’s one thing if you’re playing clean games that you can see everybody kind of improving, and you can see guys moving in the right direction and kind of taking advantage of opportunities, but that’s just not what we’re seeing, so it’s extremely disheartening when you kind of play this sloppy game,” said catcher Caleb Joseph.
“Extra bases, missed coverages, missed execution on all kind of different things and it’s tough. For a guy that’s been here for a number of years, it’s quite a change. But we’ve got to pull it together. This is an opportunity to take advantage of some time for these young guys and even for the older guys to get some stuff ironed out, but we aren’t doing it and we’re wasting time, we’re wasting opportunities to turn this thing around in terms of the rebuild.
“These are valuable moments to start making adjustments and figuring out how to do things correctly. We keep making similar mistakes over and over and over and it’s just not going to cut it.”
Why has it continued to happen? Joseph can only offer theories.
“It’s tough to pinpoint one exact reason,” he said. There’s a lot of new faces and maybe we do stuff differently than other places, a lot of guys that are getting a taste of the big leagues for the first time.
“I know when I played for the first time in ‘14 there were quite a few jitters, I was just surrounded by tons of veterans. There’s more younger players in this clubhouse.”
C.J. Cron had an RBI double in the first after a one-out walk and single put Rogers in a jam. Kevin Kiermaier grounded into a force at home, but Willy Adames delivered a run-scoring single and Brandon Lowe clubbed a three-run homer to right field.
The Rays executed a double steal in the second inning, with Mallex Smith scoring, and Rogers was done after walking Matt Duffy. Rogers was charged with six runs and six hits and his 47th pitch appears to be his last in 2018.
Smith is the first Rays player to steal home since Desmond Jennings on July 3, 2012. Joseph threw to second base while trying to nab Tommy Pham and Smith scored easily.
“Just elevated everything,” Showalter said when asked about Rogers. “Wasn’t very crisp today. You could see his velocity was down a little bit and he was elevating everything, and they had their way with him.”
Rogers apparently will be shut down after throwing 151 1/3 innings this summer.
“I didn’t consider it until after this outing and now we will,” Showalter said. “He needed this outing to kind of get where he needed to get and we’ll look at it when we get back.”
The excitement of reaching the majors is tempered just a bit by how it concluded.
“Yeah, it’s pretty unfortunate because I’ve had too pretty OK outings starting my career off and trying to build off those,” Rogers said. “This will sink in and it’ll be a long offseason thinking about this one, but just taking away the positives of the experience of being here so far. It’s a learning experience and it’s a great opportunity here and I’m excited about it.
“I was supposed to be in Trenton in Double-A. I was going to be the fifth starter in Trenton and I just kind of got lucky. It kind of worked out. I was going to be in the bullpen in Triple-A and we had a guy go up and I made a start and did well and just kind of ran with it.
“I pitched well and I’ve always been a starter and always wanted to be a starter. I was fortunate enough to get that opportunity with the Yankees and to have a couple months with them and then have the opportunities here it was really exciting. If this was my last one, I’ll work hard this offseason and I’ll come into spring ready to go.”
Rogers said he had a good warmup session in the bullpen, but it didn’t carry over to the game.
“Everything was kind of elevated,” he said. “The slider was non-existent and when they can eliminate one of my three pitches, it’s going to be a long day for me. Just elevated fastballs. I thought I made a couple decent pitches, but they got to those and a lot of really bad ones today.”
“They came out swinging,” Joseph said. “What was it, the (first) inning where they got five runs? It all happened very quick, within one or two pitches of each other. It seemed like his command wasn’t as good as we’ve seen in the first two outings. The type of pitcher he is, he’s going to need to command the baseball, and he was missing on the other side of the plate and we hadn’t seen that since he’s been up.
“He’s done a really nice job of commanding the ball and working inside to righties on sliders and changeups. They ambushed him, and they ambushed him on his mistakes, so kind of a first test of ‘can you stop the bleeding?’ You’re trying to stop the bleeding there to keep it within one or two runs. They put up five and it was an uphill battle after that.”
Yacabonis offered up 3 2/3 scoreless innings until Carlos Gomez led off the sixth with a home run - his first since July 14 and first off an actual pitcher and not a position player since June 1.
“Yac was good,” Showalter said. “Just got ambushed one time with a fastball
Rays “opener” Ryne Stanek walked the first three batters and was replaced by Yonny Chirinos, but the Orioles didn’t score. Leadoff hitter Cedric Mullins was thrown out attempting to steal while Joey Rickard ran the count to 3-1.
It’s the little things that have become magnified. Maybe it’s the lighting inside the dome.
“That’s one of those learning curves,” Showalter said. “You’ve got a guy that’s missing up with the fastball, he’s 1.25 to the plate and that stolen base is probably not there. I’m going to let these guys run so they can learn from these things. That’s a bag we should probably stay there for.”
Renato Núñez doubled with one out in the second inning and was doubled off second base on Jace Peterson’s soft liner to Duffy. Núñez and Miguel Castro looked at each other while drifting toward Cron’s pop up near the third base line in the seventh inning and let it fall in foul territory.
Cron drew a walk and moved to second base on Adames’ infield hit on a ball that Núñez backhanded at the edge of the grass before pulling Trey Mancini off the bag with a wide throw.
“The ground ball to Núñez they scored a hit?” Showalter asked. “Really? Who’s watching that? That’s scary.”
Smith singled into right-center field in the eighth and hustled to second base after Rickard bobbled the ball for an error. Pham doubled to score Smith for an 8-3 lead.
Mancini saved Núñez from an error by reaching for the throw and getting his foot back on the bag to end the inning.
If Showalter hasn’t pulled out every strand of hair in his head, he deserves an award for his patience and restraint.
He could glance at the scoreboard or check the box score and count only one error, but the mistakes in this series were plentiful.
“We had another four- or five-error game that didn’t show up on the error column,” Showalter said.
Tim Beckham and Núñez opened the seventh inning with singles off Chirinos and Peterson scored them with his 10th career triple and second with the Orioles. Joseph’s sacrifice fly reduced the lead to 7-3.
Joseph also singled twice and doubled for his first multi-hit game since July 28. It didn’t improve his mood.
“It’s stuff that, it’s fixable,” Joseph said. “A lot of it is mental, and even physical issues that we know we can fix. It’s not like it’s a lost cause. There’s tons of talent in here. It’s just time for this talent to start showing itself. And in spurts it has and we’ve seen it.
“They always talk about in hockey, put together a full 60 minutes. They can play 55 minutes and if they stink for five it’s over. We’ve got to put together a full nine-inning game, period. How many times have we seen it this season where we’ve put in a full nine innings of good, crisp clean Baltimore-style game? The games we’ve been known to play? It just hasn’t happened.
“Forget the home runs, forget all that stuff. Play a good, clean game and see where we are after that.”
Note: Dylan Bundy will pitch Thursday against the Athletics at Camden Yards, working on one extra day of rest.