The fascination with the Orioles’ poor home record builds with each defeat. The demands for a simple explanation grow along with the loss total.
Here’s a simple truth that played out again this afternoon: Location of the game doesn’t matter if pitch location isn’t precise.
Rookie Dean Kremer surrendered a pair of home runs in the second inning, the Rays flexing their muscle throughout the series, the bullpen labored again and the Orioles were beaten 10-1 to complete the sweep.
The Orioles have lost 10 of 12 games since John Means’ no-hitter on May 5 and are 17-26 overall and 6-18 at Camden Yards.
“It’s not fun, whether it’s home or road,” Kremer said. “Just getting loss after loss is not an enjoyable way to spend the season.”
Kremer was removed after three innings and 63 pitches, with another rookie, Keegan Akin, replacing him. Kremer allowed four runs and five hits with four walks and three strikeouts and his ERA is 6.35.
Akin was charged with two runs and five hits in three innings. The Rays scored three times off Travis Lakins Sr. in the seventh for a 9-1 lead.
Stevie Wilkerson made his fifth career pitching appearance, working the ninth. He retired the first two batters, made Joey Wendle look foolish on a 45 mph pitch and surrendered a long home run to center field. Kevin Kiermaier singled and Francisco Mejía grounded into a force.
“We have not played well the last couple of weeks,” said manager Brandon Hyde. “Our pitching is really beat up right now. We have to have starters go longer. ... We’re running on fumes a little bit right now and it’s May 20.”
The offensive support wasn’t there, either. Veteran left-hander Rich Hill no-hit the Orioles, walking three batters, until Trey Mancini’s leadoff home run to the opposite field in the fourth inning. Hill permitted only two hits in six innings.
The Orioles were outhit 18-2. The Rays left 16 runners on base.
Mancini now has 10 home runs and 39 RBIs, the latter stat leading the majors. His grip on the Comeback Player of the Year Award is going to leave divots.
Hill owns a career 1.32 ERA against the Orioles in 27 1/3 innings, with no home runs surrendered before Mancini. He registered a 7.80 ERA and 1.873 WHIP in 14 games with them in 2009 after a long-awaited trade with the Cubs. He walked 40 batters in 57 2/3 innings and was ushered out the door as a free agent.
A streak of 20 2/3 scoreless innings for Hill this season ended with Mancini’s swing.
Albert Belle holds the Orioles record for most RBIs in a month with 37 in June 2000, his final season before a degenerative hip condition forced his retirement. Manny Machado totaled 35 in August 2017. Mancini has 22 in May, nine short of Jim Gentile’s record for the month in 1961, per STATs.
Kremer threw three consecutive curveballs to Wendle leading off the second and the 401-foot home run to center field on an 0-2 pitch gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead. An infield hit against the shift and Kremer’s second of three walks over two innings were followed by Randy Arozarena’s third homer in less than 24 hours.
Arozarena carried a 90.6 mph fastball 422 feet with an exit velocity of 111.6 mph, per Statcast, and the Orioles couldn’t catch up. He added an RBI single off Lakins, as another leak sprung in a bullpen that entered the series with a 3.50 ERA that ranked fourth in the American League and sixth in the majors and a 1.19 WHIP that was fourth in the league and seventh in the majors.
“They’re a pretty hot team, as you can see,” Kremer said. “They’re swinging the bats pretty well and when you leave too many balls center cut, you pay for it, and I also wasn’t able to land enough breaking balls or changeups and that’s kind of how it went.
“When its going well, I stay aggressive regardless of who’s on base or what happens the pitch before, and then sometimes I can let it snowball and it doesn’t work up here. Things happen really quick here.
“I know I can speak for (Matt) Harvey and myself, this series especially, that anytime you get taken out at least before five or six innings, you feel like you’re letting the team down and definitely letting the bullpen down.”
Closer César Valdez loaded the bases in the eighth and struck out Ji-Man Choi on three pitches. The bat flew out of Choi’s hands as he chased a changeup.
Wendle nailed down his first career two-homer game in the ninth.
“I didn’t want to use Travis Lakins today and he throws almost 40 pitches in an inning, so everything piles up,” Hyde said. “Obviously, I don’t want to use Valdez in that type of situation and I had no other arms to throw. Those appearances and innings pile up.
“We just have to do a better job all-around, pitching-wise. We haven’t pitched well the past couple weeks except for Meansie (John Means) and we just need to improve. And we’re facing really good teams, so there’s no letup. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us. We’ve got to pitch better.”
Kremer had allowed six runs this month in three starts and 16 innings to lower his ERA from 8.40 to 5.81. He stranded two runners in the first today before a tease turned into real trouble.
“I just thought he had a tough time getting his off-speed stuff over,” Hyde said. “Credit to them all series. They didn’t swing at pitches outside the strike zone, and when he came in with his fastball they were on time with it and hit him hard. He just had a tough time commanding his curveball and his changeup there against those left-handers.”
The return of a five-man rotation is necessary with 16 consecutive games played before the next off-day. The order is established with Jorge López, Bruce Zimmermann and Matt Harvey starting against the Nationals in D.C. to begin a three-city road trip.
John Means is lined up for Monday night’s series opener in Minnesota, followed again by Kremer.
The Nationals are listing their starters at TBA, Jon Lester and Patrick Corbin.
López could be feeling some pressure after lasting only two innings Saturday night and raising his ERA to 6.35 and WHIP to 1.412. Baseball-Reference.com computes his WAR at -0.4. But the stuff is there and the Orioles are giving him another opportunity, also knowing that he’s out of minor league options.
Akin is a possible replacement if the Orioles decide to make any changes. He got through the fourth and fifth without allowing any runs today, but the Rays collected two in the sixth on three straight singles and a sacrifice fly.
Hyde had other frustrations today. Catcher Pedro Severino drew a leadoff walk in the second, raced to second base with one out on Freddy Galvis’ shallow fly ball to right field and was doubled off first after Brett Phillips made a sliding catch. Severino stood on the bag with arms spread.
Galvis mishandled a Kiermaier bouncer in the third after Wendle doubled. A two-out walk to Phillips loaded the bases and Kremer received a mound visit as Akin began to warm.
Arozarena grounded into a force and Kremer’s day was over.
A poor relay on Austin Meadows’ double in the seventh let Arozarena score. Should have been an easy out at the plate.
Cedric Mullins made an impressive over-the-shoulder catch in the fourth to rob Meadows.
“I think filling the role that I’ve been kind of in the last couple weeks is making sure I’m ready for those opportunities, whether defensively or a pinch-hit at-bat, just making sure I’m ready to go and helping the team any way I can,” McKenna said. “Just kind of filling the roles. As of right now, that’s what I’ve beee doing and trying to do great at it.”
Down on the farm, knuckleballer Mickey Jannis took the loss today at Triple-A Norfolk despite allowing only an unearned run and no hits in five relief innings. No walks, no strikeouts. Jacksonville won 5-4 in 10 innings.
Update: The Orioles optioned McKenna to Norfolk.