The Orioles held optional batting practice early this afternoon, the cage rolled onto the field and a pitching machine and hitting coach Don Long set up in front of the mound. A team with a roster weighted with established veterans might have attracted a small handful of participants. The Orioles had players coming in waves.
The outfield was covered with pitchers willing to shag fly balls. Long worked up a heavy lather in the summer heat.
“I don’t see anybody not working in here,” said reserve outfielder Ryan McKenna, in the last group of hitters. “That’s what we try to keep encouraging as teammates is just keep doing what you need to do and hopefully the results will come at the end of the day.
“We don’t quit and we never will, and I think that says a lot about our guys.”
The effort isn’t lacking, only the rewards.
Thomas Eshelman didn’t record an out in the third inning, leaving with a welt on his leg and a four-run deficit, and the White Sox defeated the Orioles again 8-3 before an announced crowd of 26,391, easily the largest of the season.
The Orioles have moved to the brink of the break and are 28-60 overall and 0-6 versus the White Sox. The 60th loss in 2019 arrived on July 1 in their 84th game.
Domingo Leyba had run-scoring singles in the fourth and sixth innings in his latest start, this one at second base.
Eshelman retired the side in order on 12 pitches in the first inning and Brian Goodwin led off the second with a home run to center field. Andrew Vaughn walked, but Leury García struck out and Austin Wynns registered another caught stealing.
More hurtful was the 104.5 mph comebacker off the bat off Jake Burger leading off the third that slammed into Eshelman’s leg. What ensued had to be seen, and not just that play.
Eshelman raced for the ball, slid in an attempt to gather it and stayed down in pain, rolling over on his stomach. He remained in the game after a few warmup tosses, with manager Brandon Hyde, pitching coach Chris Holt and head athletic trainer Brian Ebel studying him. But a walk, run-scoring double, two-run double and walk forced him to leave with no outs and the Orioles trailing 4-0.
The ball boy seated down the right field line mistakenly gloved Tim Anderson’s double. Burger scored, umpires placed runners on second and third base and Yoán Moncada followed with a more traditional double.
Eshelman was removed after walking José Abreu, marking his shortest outing among his five starts. He hasn’t completed the fifth in any of them and hasn’t made it through the fourth in two of the last three.
The ball drilled Eshelman on his left shin.
“It kind of swelled up on me after that batter I walked a little bit,” he said, “but I just wanted to grind through it and hopefully get through that third and give the bullpen a break.”
Keegan Akin stranded both runners after replacing Eshelman, who’s trying to hold onto his rotation and roster spots with John Means due back in the Rays series. Eshelman threw 52 pitches today, 27 for strikes, and the four runs in two-plus innings raised his ERA to 8.35.
“I think it did affect him,” Hyde said. “After Moncada hit that ball down the line, just watching him back up you could tell the leg was bothering him. I don’t know how hard the ball was hit, but it was hit hard and it got him right on the bone. I give him credit, a team guy trying to stay in the game.”
Akin struck out four of the first seven batters he faced, but a leadoff walk to Moncada in the fifth led to two runs and a 6-1 White Sox lead. Goodwin had an RBI single and García a two-run double after the Orioles turned a double play.
Hyde made another pitching change with one out in the seventh after Abreu doubled, advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Goodwin’s single. Akin covered 4 1/3 innings, his most important contribution, and was charged with four runs - after García doubled off Adam Plutko - and struck out six.
“That was the best stuff I’ve seen from Keegan in a while and I was encouraged by that,” Hyde said. “He gave up a few runs there, probably tired toward the end, but I thought he threw the ball really well. Fastball had more life to it than previous starts, threw some decent off-speed pitches, he was aggressive in the strike zone, wasn’t missing on wrong sides of the plate. I was encouraged by him coming out of the ‘pen.”
Ryan Mountcastle led off the fourth with a single against Lucas Giolito, moved to second base with two outs and scored on Leyba’s single. Giolito walked Anthony Santander to open the sixth, threw two wild pitches and exited with one out after walking DJ Stewart. Reliever Ryan Burr sandwiched two strikeouts around Leyba’s second RBI hit.
The Orioles loaded the bases against reliever José Ruiz with two outs in the eighth and pinch-hitter Austin Hays drew the third walk of the inning to reduce the lead to 8-3. Closer Liam Hendriks entered in a save situation and struck out pinch-hitter McKenna on three upper-90s fastballs.
Hendriks notched three saves in the four-game series in Chicago, including both ends of the doubleheader.
The latest short start again damaged the Orioles, who can’t get any length out of their rotation.
“This is a tough stretch for us right now,” Eshelman said.
“As a rotation we just need to keep it simple and not look too far ahead and take one thing at a time and understand who we are and what we can do, and hopefully that translates in the second half. So it’s a good little break for us right now and clear our minds a little bit and look forward to what we can do come the second half.”
“We’re definitely struggling in the rotation,” Hyde said, adding that Akin likely will make more starts. “We’re out of games early.”
All-Star Cedric Mullins led off the bottom of the first with a double to left field, but the Orioles failed again to move a runner with a productive out to the right side. An irritant for Hyde among the selection on a rebuilding club.
Wynns and Trey Mancini singled in the third and Santander struck out. Mancini was on the field earlier than anyone for a hitting session leading into Monday’s Home Run Derby at Coors Field.
“I think he’s working on some things but he also was practicing a little bit,” Hyde said before the game. “That Home Run Derby is a little bit of a conditioning test, as well, and so with the clock I think he wanted to get used to it a little bit.”
Mancini also struck out three times and lined out. He’s 11-for-62 with 24 strikeouts since his two-homer game on June 20.
Ramón Urías singled twice and has multiple hits in five of the last six games. He’s 15-for-41 (.366) since his recall on June 27.
Notes: Means was back at Camden Yards this morning after working three innings last night at Double-A Bowie and surrendering a couple of home runs.
“I just talked to him, said he has a tough time pitching at Bowie,” Hyde said, smiling. “He said he feels great. He gave up a couple homers, said that’s why he has a 5.00 ERA in Bowie, whatever it is. But he said he threw the ball well and made a couple mistakes they hit for homers, but besides that he’s healthy and ready to make his next start in Memphis.”
The Orioles are 0-48 when trailing after eight innings.
The Orioles acquired 21-year-old Colombian right-hander Hugo Beltran from the Dodgers today for cash considerations. Beltran pitched in the Dominican Summer League from 2018-19 and was 7-8 with a 4.45 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 89 innings. He made 37 appearances, including seven starts.