HOUSTON - When it was over, the Houston Astros had beaten the Orioles 4-2 tonight and swept them three straight. The Orioles set a major league record with 52 strikeouts in a three-game series, and center fielder Adam Jones put it into a perspective that only he can.
All losses hurt, but was Jones disappointed in the how the Orioles lost, with strikeouts and errors hurting the team?
“You lose, you lose,” he said. “There is no sugar-coating a loss, is there? Doesn’t matter how you lose, you lose. You can by a walk-off and you played a helluva game or you can lose the way we lost tonight. You lose, you lose.
“We’re battling. You can’t sleep on these guys, that’s a good team over there. They pitched us all tough. Like it was a two-out, man in scoring position type scenario every at-bat. So tip your cap and move on. Let’s get the hell out of here, this hasn’t been fun. I saw we set the record for strikeouts in a three-game series. Let’s get the hell out of Houston.”
The Orioles have lost four in a row and they struck out 19, 18 and 15 times in the series. Going back five games, they have fanned 73 times. Has the blueprint been set: Get the Orioles to chase off-speed pitches?
“Well, I think if they hung one and we hit it out, I don’t think you guys would be saying that, right?” Jones said. “Take the yin with the yang, bro. At the end of the day I think our production, our power, will be right there. Like I said, this last week, everyone was raving and rooting us on how we hit (four) home runs first day in Anaheim.
“Take the good with the bad, stop complaining and root us on. If you want to jump off the bandwagon, be my guest. You’re going to have to ride or die with us and if you want to, fine with it.”
Earlier in this series, Jones said the opposite of home runs is strikeouts and the Orioles will have their share of both. But what about setting a three-game record?
“Who cares?” he said. “That doesn’t matter to us. Strikeouts are strikeouts. You can have 10 strikeouts in a game and also ... look at say the first game in Anaheim, we hit (four) home runs, how many strikeouts did we have? You guys don’t know because you don’t care. Because it doesn’t matter, right? You take the good and bad ,man. Tip your cap and move on. Now we got to go face the Indians. Let’s go there and grind out some bats, hopefully put some runs up early for our starter, so he doesn’t feel like he has to pitch a perfect game.”
The Orioles have had to bounce back from tough losses and series before and Jones has no doubt they can do so this weekend during the final stop of what is now a 2-4 road trip.
“We’re grown ups. We’re professionals. We’re not amateurs. We know what our job description is so, tomorrow, come out and be ready to play baseball,” he said.
Meanwhile, a real high note tonight for the Orioles was seeing pitcher Ashur Tolliver make his major league debut. Over 1 1/3 innings, he fanned three. The first batter he faced was Colby Rasmus and he threw the first three pitches at 94, 96 and 96 mph before getting him swinging at a changeup. What a moment for a lefty that began his pro career in 2009 and saw it almost derailed by labrum surgery three years later.
“It was awesome,” Tolliver said. “Everything I’d hoped it would be. A lot of the adrenaline, I had guys like Zach (Britton) and Darren (O’Day) down there, kind of talk me through it and saying, ‘You can do it. Same game’. But, yeah, it was special.”
Making it even moreso was that he had family in the stands that came from Arkansas to see his debut. That included his wife, mom, dad, stepdad, sister, mother in-law, his best friend from back home and two other good friends - a group of nine to root him on.
“It was great. I’ll take it whenever I can get it but the fact that this is their last day and they’re heading home tonight. To be able to do it in front of them, it was pretty cool,” Tolliver added.
As for O’s starter Kevin Gausman, he allowed five hits and four runs over five innings. Gausman tied his career high by allowing three homers, two of them hit by George Springer.
“Yeah, a couple bad pitches and falling behind guys, I think, was the biggest thing,” Gausman said. “When you’re in there having prolonged at-bats - seven-, eight-pitch at-bats - you’re showing everything you have. So especially early on, you throw that many pitches early on and be kind of sporadic, they started laying off some good pitches and fouling a lot of good and bad pitches off. You just try to get through it.”
With his team having lost four in a row and seven of 10 to fall to 26-19, manager Buck Showalter was asked about the Orioles setting the strikeout record.
“Ws and Ls are why we take the field every night and how you get to them may not look aesthetically pleasing,” he said. “When you do something that’s a break from the norm, it gets a lot of attention. So I understand that.
“Guys don’t want any excuses. I’ve got some real thoughts I’ll keep private, but our guys don’t want to hear about excuses or anything. They’d be the last to use them. It’s not one person, it’s been a challenge for all of them, even guys who normally are pretty good contact hitters.
“Kevin’s not the story, for me. It’s more about us (not) scoring runs. Kevin pitched well. You see all the strikeouts in this ballpark. With the change in lighting, it’s been tough. What did they have tonight, 13? They had 10 or 11 the other night. They get new LED lighting? It’s definitely a different look for the hitters. I’ll tip our hat to the pitchers though.”
Late in the game, the Orioles made several loud outs. As they move on to Cleveland to regroup, Showalter was asked if that will be encouraging to him and his hitters
“Not really,” he said. “It’s about winning and losing. They are very frustrated and I am for them. Can you imagine what it’s like to have that type of ability at your fingertips and not be able to get to it?”