Orioles catcher Pedro Severino and manager Brandon Hyde gave rookie pitcher Bruce Zimmermann the same encouraging, and perhaps consoling, pat on the backside today - in rapid succession as if rehearsed - after he handed over the baseball and turned toward the dugout.
Zimmermann sat on the bench expressionless in the fifth inning, staring straight ahead, as captured by the MASN cameras. He could have been thinking about the elevated fastball that Jesús Aguilar lined into left-center field for a two-out, two-run double to break a scoreless tie. Or his failure to cover third base on a sacrifice bunt, the kind of mental lapse that a competitor like Zimmermann can’t forgive.
Wherever his mind had gone, Zimmermann was fuming and fighting to keep from showing it. He won that battle.
A third run scored after Cole Sulser entered the game and the Orioles settled for a split, losing to the Marlins 3-0 to conclude their latest road trip.
The Orioles are 8-10 overall and 7-4 away from home. They’re off again Thursday before hosting the Athletics in a three-game series.
The seven road wins tied the Rays for most in the American League and were one behind the Dodgers. But Zimmermann couldn’t outduel Marlins left-hander Trevor Rogers, the first-round pick in 2017 who blanked the Orioles on four hits in seven innings.
Maikel Franco doubled to lead off the seventh and was stranded. It felt like the team’s last gasp.
The Marlins put the leadoff hitter on base in five of the first six innings. Hard to maintain a shutout under those conditions.
Sandy Leon singled in the fifth, slid into second base on Rogers’ sacrifice bunt, got up and slid into third. Franco fielded the ball and Zimmermann didn’t sprint to the bag.
Was he supposed to?
“You can’t deny that changes the entire integrity of that inning,” he said. “It’s been a while since we had to run those bunt plays like that, and that’s completely on me for not being at third base and it definitely would have made it a lot easier having that guy on second base, but in the grand scheme of things a base hit’s going to score him regardless from second or third. So, as far as locking in for the rest of the inning, that was the same, but more it was just a mental lapse on my end. I’ve got to be better than that on the bunt plays. You don’t see a whole lot of those. Obviously, we’re playing an NL team, but you still have to be aware of that and make that play.”
Ramón Urías took Franco’s throw, looked across the diamond and knew he didn’t have a play. Marlins first base coach Keith Johnson waved to Leon to keep running.
“The bunt’s in front of the plate there,” Hyde said. “Franco’s being aggressive, runner at first, we know they’re bunting, three guys converge. We need to communicate there and the catcher needs to get to third base.”
Zimmermann, the Baltimore native and Loyola Blakefield graduate, rebounded by striking out Jazz Chisholm Jr., but Miguel Rojas walked on four pitches and Aguilar lined a 2-2 fastball to the fence.
Adam Duvall’s single off Sulser increased the lead to 3-0.
“It’s a tough one to swallow, especially after battling back against Chisholm and getting that punchout,” Zimmermann said. “I really want to get out of it, but I should have made a better pitch there and move forward.”
Zimmermann made a nice recovery in the first inning after a leadoff single and walk. He retired the next two batters on fly balls to center fielder Austin Hays and struck out Corey Dickerson on a curveball. His 20th pitch of the inning.
Hays’ arm kept Chisholm at second base and the Marlins off the board.
A leadoff single and stolen base by Chisholm in the third produced nothing. A double play followed Dickerson’s leadoff single in the fourth.
There were only so many escapes in Zimmermann’s bag of tricks. But he impressed with his pitch mix and grit.
“Just ran into trouble there in the fifth,” Hyde said. “The fastball velo’s a tick down to start the game, but I thought he had some good breaking balls, threw some good changeups, battled, was one out away from getting out of that fifth inning. Had a really nice punchout of Chisholm and then just kind of lost control there with Rojas. So I’m not sure what happened there, because after the big punchout, four wide to Rojas and then was back in the count to Aguilar and just left a pitch kind of middle to Aguilar that beat him. But I thought he threw the ball well, kept us in the game. Was zeros up until that fifth inning and was a strike away from getting out of the fifth with another zero.”
A two-out single from Hays in the third inning became the third out after he tried to stretch it into a double. Replays appeared to show that he was safe, but the call stood.
“I thought there was enough to be able to see my hand hitting the bag and then the glove hitting my upper forearm area, but it was a very tough angle and I understand it has to be conclusive to be able to overturn it,” Hays said. “It’s unfortunate we didn’t have another camera angle to be able to see it a little bit better. That was a big turning point in the game. Could have had a runner in scoring position for Trey (Mancini) right there, but I felt like with two outs that was a great time to push it to get into scoring position so I could score on a hit.”
Ryan Mountcastle walked in the fourth, stole second base and was stranded. Freddy Galvis led off the fifth with a single, but Rogers got a force and two strikeouts - the latter against Zimmermann with no designated hitter in the National League.
“He’s been difficult on every team he’s faced so far and you can see why,” Hyde said. “It’s a left-hander who throws from a tough angle. Tall left-hander, tough angle, the ball jumps out of his hand. It’s mid-90s but it plays up. He’s got command, he’s got good off-speed stuff and he was attacking the strike zone on us. You saw a lot of early outs. He walked one, punched out eight. He had really, really good stuff today and we knew that going in.”
Sulser and Travis Lakins Sr. each tossed 1 1/3 scoreless innings.