The Orioles are waiting to exhale.
A losing streak that’s reached 18 games threatens to turn their cheeks blue. They’re frustrated, embarrassed and pressing. Everything that you’d expect during one of the worst periods in club history.
Would it be better if they had spent money and made moves aimed at a run at the postseason, or do the rebuild concept and its on-field sacrifices make their record more palatable?
Does it really matter?
The 2018 season began with the Orioles inserting new starting pitcher Andrew Cashner into the rotation and waiting for Alex Cobb to build up his innings at extended spring training. They brought back pitcher Chris Tillman and signed outfielders Colby Rasmus and Craig Gentry and infielder Pedro Álvarez. They held onto pending free agents like Manny Machado and Zack Britton, the latter rupturing his right Achilles tendon in December, while in full “go for it” mode, trying to ignore a window that was closing.
Fingers would be crushed, not just pinched.
Executive vice president Dan Duquette and manager Buck Showalter also were pending free agents, and rarely on the same page except they weren’t ready to concede the season before it started.
The Orioles contended the previous season until September. The collapse didn’t convince them to rebuild. The earlier months fooled some people.
The team went 47-115 and became the first since the 2003 Tigers to win fewer than 50 games in a full season. It finished 61 behind the Red Sox. Ripping out one nose hair at a time would have been less painful.
So, I’ll ask again just out of curiosity: Is it worse to have hopes built up and knocked down violently or to witness pretty much what was warned ahead of time - though not necessarily to this extreme?
Still doesn’t really matter, but I’m on record as insisting that 2021 coverage for me hasn’t been as difficult and stressful as 2018. And that’s saying a lot, considering two losing streaks of 14 or more games and still no clubhouse access.
The Orioles are 38-85 and have been outscored 149-47 during an 18-game skid that’s only three short of the club record in 1988. A loss tonight would match the 2005 Royals. And it seems even worse because of that minus-102 run differential. The tube of “we’ve been competitive” is almost squeezed dry.
Almost. They lost by three, one and two runs in the Braves series. They put runners on base in seven of nine innings Sunday afternoon and stranded eight. And this is an opponent with a nine-game winning streak and first-place stature.
The Angels are here for a three-game series. They’re in fourth place in the American League West, losers of three straight, possessors of a minus-57 run differential. Tonight’s starter, Dylan Bundy, is 2-9 with a 6.04 ERA and 1.332 WHIP in 22 appearances. He tossed 6 1/3 scoreless innings on Aug. 5 in Texas and allowed five runs in 8 2/3 innings in his next two starts.
Never in need of prodding or a push, Bundy figures to be especially hyped by his return to Baltimore and first start against the Orioles. He should be prepared, however, for temperatures in the 90s.
The heat in New York got to him earlier this season. You can find the video online, but may want to avoid it.
Executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias made the bold move of trading Bundy, the team’s first-round pick in 2011, for four minor league pitchers. Bundy was 27 and under team control for two more seasons. He allowed two earned runs or fewer in seven of his last 10 starts, seeming to finally grasp how to operate without his upper-90s velocity. But that surge prompted the Angels to part with Kyle Bradish, Isaac Mattson, Kyle Brnovich and Zach Peek.
Holding onto Bundy a little longer might have sweetened the return, though he eventually becomes a rental and sees a reduction in his value. Elias is probably fine with how the deal’s unfolded. Bradish, 24, is the No. 8 prospect in the system, per MLBPipeline.com and Baseball America, and a candidate to debut in September. Brnovich, 23, earned a promotion to Double-A this summer after registering a 2.36 ERA and 0.845 WHIP in eight starts with Single-A Aberdeen and averaging 12.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Peek, 23, is averaging 12.2 strikeouts and only 0.5 home runs per nine innings between Aberdeen and low Single-A Delmarva.
Mattson, who turned 26 in July, hasn’t stuck in an Orioles bullpen that hungers for quality relief. The shuttle keeps coming with Mattson allowing three runs and walking four batters over three innings in three games. He missed almost a month with Triple-A Norfolk earlier this summer and is on the injured list with an 8.10 ERA and 2.100 WHIP in 15 appearances. But the Orioles still believe in his stuff, including the high-spin-rate fastball, and certainly don’t think the 2.33 ERA and 110 strikeouts in 73 1/3 innings at three levels in 2019 happened by accident.
Flood the system with arms and hope to hit on a few.
And while you’re at it, hope to hit enough with runners in scoring position to end a long losing streak.
Mundy is batting a combined .292/.389/.538 with 20 doubles, 15 home runs and 57 RBIs in 71 games between Delmarva and Aberdeen. He was promoted to Bowie last week.