Scouts who descended upon Camden Yards again tonight weren’t attracted to the crab cakes and pit beef. Those are just perks of the job.
The Orioles are sellers again and the trade deadline is 4 p.m. Friday. Contenders are checking on available players and determining whether there’s a potential match and at what cost.
The weekend series against the Nationals and the current two-game set against the Marlins comprise the final homestand before August. Remaining observations on Orioles trade chips must be done Thursday night in Detroit.
It’s nearly impossible to separate a good or poor performance from its impact on talks. Spenser Watkins isn’t going to be traded, however, so what he did against the Marlins was important only to the Orioles’ hopes of winning and his chances of staying in the rotation long-term.
Watkins allowed only three runs in his first four games over 16 1/3 innings. Marlins catcher Sandy León equaled that total with one swing in the second inning, his ball landing on Eutaw Street and keying a 7-3 victory over the Orioles before an announced crowd of 10,098 at Camden Yards.
Austin Hays led off the fourth inning with his 10th home run and Cedric Mullins led off the sixth with his 17th, but the Orioles (34-65) failed for the sixth time to extend a winning streak to four games. They haven’t strung together that many in a row since Sept. 4-8, 2020 or that many at home since May 9-12, 2018.
Marlins starter Sandy Alcantara didn’t allow a hit until Hays’ 409-foot shot, with an exit velocity of 109 mph per Statcast. Watkins didn’t return for the fifth, allowing four runs and nine hits with one walk and one strikeout.
León greeted Shaun Anderson with a home run. Adam Plutko surrendered a home run to Brian Anderson in the seventh. Conner Greene made his major league debut and gave up a run in two innings. Relievers who aren’t going to generate any heat on the market.
The Phillies have been scouting the Orioles with an eye toward the bullpen. Paul Fry and Tanner Scott are attracting the most interest and the Phillies are in the market for relief help. Cole Sulser and Dillon Tate also are possibilities to be dealt.
Given the number of former Orioles employees now working for the Phillies, the scouting feels more like a refresher.
The Padres also were represented tonight, among others, in a seller versus seller series opener.
Manager Brandon Hyde doesn’t sense that his players are consumed by the rumors and possibility that the clubhouse will undergo some changes beyond the usual in-house shuffling.
“I actually haven’t heard anybody talk about it up to this point,” Hyde said today during batting practice. “Everybody’s aware. It’s all over, it’s everywhere you look right now. It’s on TV. But I haven’t heard any of our players - maybe they’re not doing it around me or something - but I haven’t heard any conversations about guys getting moved.
“You hear conversations about when a trade happens, but nothing about our guys.”
Watkins is staying in the rotation for now, with his next start coming Sunday afternoon in Detroit. He retired the side in order on 11 pitches in the first inning but threw 26 in the second, allowing singles to Lewin Díaz and Isan Díaz and Leon’s three-run shot with two outs. He hung a curveball on his eighth pitch of the at-bat and Leon admired its flight.
León produced the 110th Eutaw Street home run and 60th by an opponent.
Left-handers were 2-for-24 against Watkins until tonight. Lewin Díaz and Isan Díaz bat from the left side. León is a switch-hitter.
“The biggest separation I think was a feel for the off-speed,” Watkins said on his Zoom call. “We’ve been working on a few things, tweaking stuff as we do throughout seasons, and just trying to find that consistent feel was a little bit more of a search for me tonight rather than having it from pitch one.”
The Marlins opened the third inning with back-to-back singles by Starling Marte and Jesús Aguilar. Second baseman Domingo Leyba gave up on Aguilar’s grounder up the middle, stopping at second base for an anticipated feed from shortstop Ramón Urías that never came.
Watkins retired the next two batters on a strikeout and shallow fly ball, walked Anderson to load the bases and escaped the jam because Ryan Mountcastle made a diving stop on the line and flip to rob Isan Díaz.
That 11-pitch first inning was followed by 26 and 25, and the Marlins again had back-to-back singles to begin the fourth. Marte grounded a single into center field with one out to score León for a 4-0 lead, but Watkins limited the damage in another 25-pitch frame.
“I told him when we took him out, ‘Way to keep us in the game,’ just because he had a lot of traffic there,” Hyde said on his Zoom call. “Gave up the three-run homer to León but pitched out of trouble in the third and only gave up one run in the fourth. Could have been a lot worse than that if he didn’t make pitches. ... Did a nice job of pitching. Just the bottom of their order hurt us all night.”
“I wouldn’t sit here and say that I took a step back by any means,” Watkins said. “It’s a matter of normal week in, week out work and just continuing to stay as sharp as you can.”
Shaun Anderson had a clean sixth, but he’s made four appearances with the Orioles and allowed six earned runs (11 total) with 12 hits in 6 2/3 innings. Plutko has given up 12 home runs in 50 innings.
DJ Stewart led off the seventh with a double and scored on Urías’ single to cut the lead to 6-3 and bring reliever Anthony Bass into the game.
Greene is the 12th Oriole to make his major league debut, most in the majors, and 48th player used. He struck out his first batter and retired the second on a ground ball, but Marte was hit by a pitch, stole second base and scored on Aguilar’s single. A second strikeout was notched in the ninth to strand a runner.
“He was really amped up that first inning,” Hyde said. “You saw a bunch of 98s and 99s. I hadn’t seen that before. Conner’s got good stuff. We know that, we saw that in spring training. Saw three pitches, saw a good fastball and slider and changeup. I like the energy he brings on the mound, he’s definitely in the fight every single pitch.”
“It was great,” Watkins said. “It was really, really cool to see someone like him who similar to me has grinded his way year in and year out to get his opportunity to go out there and do what he did. It’s phenomenal to see guys like that get their chances. It’s very heartwarming.”
The Marlins won all four games against the Orioles last summer, including two in Baltimore as the “home” team. They were the visitors tonight, but capable of delivering the same result.
Scouts will return on Wednesday. They saw Scott warm up in the eighth tonight as the Orioles mounted a rally that fizzled. Perhaps their appetites will be satisfied beyond the concessions.
Notes: The Orioles signed all 21 of their draft picks. They have a deal done with pitcher Daniel Lloyd, a 14th-rounder from the University of South Carolina.
Toby Welk hit his seventh home run for Double-A Bowie, Greg Cullen hit his second and Cadyn Grenier was 3-f05-5. Cody Sedlock allowed one run and struck out seven batters in five innings and Steven Klimek struck out five in two scoreless innings.
Catcher Ramon Rodriguez hit his third home run for Single-A Aberdeen.
Jean Pinto, acquired from the Angels in the José Iglesias trade, moved up from the Rookie-level Florida Complex League to Single-A Delmarva and allowed four runs (three earned) and two hits with eight strikeouts in four innings.