The Orioles did an admirable job last season of preventing the losses from breaking their collective spirit. There were some chips and cracks, but nothing they couldn’t repair.
It might have been done with a win or the stubborn nature they’d exhibit in defeat, battling until the final out and whittling away at the deficit.
But there also was the game exactly one year ago in Cleveland that reminded them of the distance between a contender and a team in the early phases of a teardown and rebuild. Of how easily a club can become overmatched against an ace.
Of how badly the Orioles needed to upgrade their rotation.
Shane Bieber hadn’t struck out 15 batters at any level until that afternoon. He hadn’t registered a complete-game shutout.
The Orioles were helpless to do anything about it. The Indians cruised to a 10-0 victory to close out the series and leave the Orioles 1-5 on their road trip.
Bieber induced a season-high 27 swing-and-miss strikes from the Orioles. He began the ninth inning at 98 pitches and retired the side in order on only 10. Dwight Smith Jr. fanned to open the inning and Chris Davis struck out for the fourth time to end it.
The offense managed only five hits and didn’t coax a walk out of Bieber. It was only the second time since 1908 that an Indians pitcher tossed a shutout with 15 or more strikeouts and no walks. Luis Tiant also did it with 19 strikeouts on July 3, 1968 against the Twins.
Meanwhile, Orioles starter Yefry Ramirez allowed four earned runs (five total) with four walks in 3 1/3 innings. Reliever Gabriel Ynoa allowed an inherited runner to score after replacing Richard Bleier and four of his own (two earned runs) while also walking three batters in 1 2/3 innings.
Ramirez said he was just bad. No one argued. And the Orioles were saddled with their 31st loss, tying them for most in the majors as they boarded a flight back home.
Manager Brandon Hyde’s frustration, bottled up for most of the season, leaked out on occasion. This was one of them.
“We were hoping to get some length out of Yefry. Didn’t really happen,” he said. “We were hoping to get some length out of Ynoa. Didn’t happen. And we just got carved up offensively. So I think it’s one of those games where we just got completely beat.”
Exhibiting a tendency to bounce back after dropped hard, the Orioles returned to Camden Yards and lost four straight games to the Yankees. The season was getting away from them.
They lost twice in Colorado in walk-off fashion and twice to the Tigers and Giants at home. Their record was 18-41 as they arrived in Texas, where they lost two of three to the Rangers and Astros.
A win against the Blue Jays on June 11 in Baltimore was followed by 10 losses in a row and 13 of 14. The Orioles won the first two games against the Indians at home by 13-0 scores, ran into Bieber again and lost 2-0.
Bieber allowed three hits, walked none and struck out 11 in eight innings. This time, Ynoa got the start and surrendered only one run in 5 1/3 innings.
The American League won the All-Star Game the following month at Progressive Field. Bieber struck out the side in the fifth inning and was named Most Valuable Player.
The Orioles already were sick of him.