Several hours before he would take the mound and pitch a 1-2-3 ninth inning, Jesús Sucre talked about his regular job with the Orioles, catching. And he talked about all the longballs the Baltimore pitching staff has been giving up.
The Orioles lead the majors with 59 home runs allowed, and that is 16 more than Milwaukee, the next closest team, with St. Louis next at 42.
In some ways the answer to how Orioles pitchers can give up fewer homers sounds easy. They simply need to command the ball better and miss their spots much less often than they have been doing. The club allowed two more home runs in last night’s 12-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
Better command more often will lead to fewer opponent homers. Easy concept to understand, yes, but not easy to do.
“I believe if we can more often hit our spots, we won’t keep having all those homers,” Sucre said before Monday night’s series opener. “We watch every single hitter on every team and we know where they can do damage. The homers happen when we miss the spot.
“I’m not going to lie to you. My last few games I’ve felt frustrated. My job is to keep the pitchers in good position. If they do good, I’m the happiest guy in the world. I don’t care about my offense. That’s a plus for me if I hit. But if the pitchers are doing good, I’m happy.”
The homers have been flying out much more against the Orioles at home than on the road. The club is now 1-10 with an 8.36 ERA at home, allowing 41 homers in 11 games and 3.7 per every nine innings. Opponents are slugging .683. On the road the O’s staff ERA is 4.62 and they’ve have allowed 18 homers in 13 games. That works out to 1.4 per nine innings and a .444 slugging percentage.
Sucre said the team is not second-guessing pitch calls or pitch selections. It’s the command that is the issue.
“We watched a lot of video. I’ll use an example of (Minnesota’s) Nellie Cruz,” he said. “If you pitch him middle in, up and in, he’ll do damage. We tried to go down and away. Sometimes the hitter will make an adjustment and homer off the down-and-away pitch.”
Sucre would like to find ways to help pitchers hit their spots more often, but when I asked how could he do that, he said that he wishes he could find a way. He can call the pitch and provide a good target to hit, but the pitchers have to hit the mitt.
“Good question. I just have to watch the hitters and what they are trying to do and help them as best as I can,” Sucre said. “If they can throw the ball where we ask, we’ll do better. I believe in these guys here, our starters and our whole staff. I’ll keep doing whatever I can to help our guys out.”
Sucre became the third position player already this year to pitch, after Hanser Alberto and Chris Davis. He made his sixth career pitching performance last night and his first since July 27, 2018 for Tampa Bay at Baltimore.
O’s pitchers have allowed 38 runs during an 0-4 homestand with two games to go, and the staff ERA is 8.50 over the four games. The Orioles have had home losses this year by scores of 15-3 to the Yankees, 10-3 to Oakland, 16-7 to Minnesota and 12-2 last night to the White Sox.
Trey Mancini went 2-for-4 Monday night with an RBI double. He’s batting .347/.406/.642 with 10 doubles, six homers and 14 RBIs. He recorded his team-leading 10th multi-hit game. Mancini is batting .450 (9-for-20) during a five-game hitting streak.
Catcher Pedro Severino hit a solo homer in the ninth. Severino has hit three homers over his last five games covering 14 at-bats. He’s now tied for fourth on the club in homers behind Mancini with six, Renato Núñez with five and Dwight Smith Jr. with four.