Orioles lose 10-5 while trying to solve rotation riddle

No matter how Dylan Bundy fared this afternoon, Orioles manager Brandon Hyde could reach a certain level of comfort in knowing that he sent an actual starter to the mound.

Hyde is plugging holes in the rotation as if it’s a kiddie pool. He’s resorted again to using openers, which really constitutes a bullpen game with the first reliever unable to provide length. There’s a glaring difference beyond the terminology.

The baton-passing “affects you the next day and it affects you the day after that,” Hyde said before today’s 10-5 loss to the Padres before an announced crowd of 13,408 at Camden Yards.

“Ideally, you want to have five starters, and we just don’t have the depth or the innings, so we are getting by as best that we can. We’re not in an ideal situation, and I think we’re just trying to piece it together. I think those numbers kind of show you where we are, and we’ve had some injuries that have hurt us like every team does, though.

“The organization isn’t loaded with depth at the upper levels, and we will be and there’s going to be some hope in sight, but right now we are going with what we have.”

Left-hander John Means comes off the injured list to start Friday, a flotation device tossed into the pool. Andrew Cashner follows on Saturday, but a struggling Gabriel Ynoa starts Sunday and Hyde will need to get creative again - a task made a little simpler with the pending off-day.

Jimmy Yacabonis has been the opener twice with Josh Rogers following him, but the left-hander is on the shelf with an elbow injury that sounds serious.

“For me, those were out of necessity because we didn’t have a starter,” Hyde said, explaining the Yacabonis/Rogers pairing. “We didn’t have a starter yesterday, we didn’t have a starter his last time out. So we were just trying to get through the game competitively and try to match up. So ideally, you’d have five starters and Yac’s in the bullpen or Yac’s opening with a starter behind him. But we’re trying to piece it together.”

The lack of pitching depth at the upper levels is haunting the Orioles and they embrace any opportunity to pitch Bundy, Cashner or Means.

Bundy and Cashner are potential trade chips, but removing them from the rotation could cause a total collapse. Results aren’t supposed to matter as much this year, but the Orioles still need to get through nine innings.

Executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias noted the competitive difference that Bundy, Cashner and Means have made this season. It may not seem obvious on the surface, with the Orioles carrying a 22-58 record and with Bundy recording only 12 outs today, but he’s right.

“Even an injury or something, how we backfill that now is not very obvious,” he said. “We’ll take that as it comes and we’ll do what’s right for the organization, but they’re carrying us. I think the (Alex) Cobb injury hurt us quite a bit, and every team’s looking for starting pitching, even the good ones. So it just makes it hard to find these guys.”

The opener strategy works wonders for the Rays, but they’re doing it in legitimate fashion. The Orioles have witnessed it first-hand on many occasions.

They just can’t duplicate it.

“The teams that do it successfully have, really, a starter going after the opener, and we don’t have that,” Hyde said. “You look at Tampa’s situation, (Yonny) Chirinos is a starter that starts or goes after (Ryne) Stanek and they fill six, seven innings with two guys. Whenever we try something like that, it seems like we’ve got somebody going in the fourth, so now you just burned two, now you’ve got somebody else going in.

“And our bullpen guys have had issues this year, one, getting through innings. Two, getting through innings with a pitch count where they’re able to either go back out the next inning or be available the next day. So it’s a real touchy, dicey situation of being able to have a bullpen day because it just affects you days after. And you worry about a six-month season in health and over-usage.

“(Branden) Kline has thrown three of the last five days and threw two innings last night because we had to, we needed it. We’re just navigating through this the best we can.”

New experiences keep finding Hyde in his first year as a major league manager.

“We never had to use an opener in Chicago,” he said. “We had five starters with Mike Montgomery in the bullpen that’s a starter, so we had five veteran starters every year I was there that could give us innings. This is unique for me.”

Today’s result felt too familiar, including the five home runs surrendered to the Padres, who hit nine in the two-game series.

Alberto-Fives-Santander-White-sidebar.jpgThe Orioles jumped out to another lead in the first inning on Hanser Alberto’s triple and Renato Núñez’s one-out double off Matt Strahm. Alberto raised his season average to .321 and his average versus left-handers to .419, the highest in the majors.

Believe it or not, the Orioles have outscored their opponents 56-48 in the first inning. They don’t hold an advantage in any other frame.

Bundy put runners on the corners with no outs in the top of the first and escaped the jam by inducing two popups - one from first-pitch-swinging Manny Machado and the other from Hunter Renfroe - and striking out Franmil Reyes. The trio has combined for 62 home runs. But Bundy hit Francisco Mejia leading off the second and Greg Garcia followed with a two-run shot.

A 28-pitch inning included a walk, single and Eric Hosmer’s RBI grounder for a 3-1 Padres lead. It ended with catcher Pedro Severino making a lunging tag of Fernando Tatis Jr. after Bundy’s changeup ricocheted off the brick wall below the netting while Machado drew a walk.

Reyes homered in a 30-pitch third for a 4-1 lead, the ball landing just below the second deck in left field. Bundy has surrendered 19 of the staff’s 165 home runs.

He was done after Machado’s leadoff single in the fifth. Reyes delivered a two-run shot off Shawn Armstrong for his fifth career multi-homer game, and Bundy was charged with five runs and six hits with three walks and a hit batter. He threw 94 pitches.

Bundy hadn’t allowed more than four runs since April 11 against the Athletics.

Jonathan Villar’s two-run shot in the fourth, the ball traveling 430 feet per Statcast and landing above the home bullpen, reduced the lead to 4-3 before Reyes struck again and enjoyed a celebratory handshake with Machado.

Hosmer did the same after his two-run homer off Armstrong in the sixth. Severino homered with the bases empty in the bottom half, Renfroe greeted Tanner Scott with a home run on the first pitch thrown in the seventh and the Orioles were headed toward their 17th loss in 20 games.

They left the bases loaded in the seventh but got a bases-loaded walk from Stevie Wilkerson in the eighth before Dwight Smith Jr. struck out looking.

The Orioles surrendered five home runs for the 10th time this season, surpassing the 2016 Reds for the most games in a season, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Today marked only their 80th game of the year.

They’ve allowed 10 runs or more in 16 games.

At least they were able to celebrate another signing, with third-rounder Zach Watson joining the organization. That’s everyone in the top 10.

Keep looking toward the future.

The LSU outfielder is the 32nd player signed among the club’s 41 selections. He received a $780,400 bonus, per MLB.com’s Jim Callis, the exact slot amount.

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