Here in Orioles country, we know a little bit something about streaks.
Of course, Baltimore was the home of the most famous streak in baseball history, Cal Ripken’s MLB-record 2,632 consecutive games played.
But now the Orioles are on the precipice of another record-breaking streak — and this time, nobody will be unfurling banners from the warehouse.
With the Orioles’ 6-3 loss to the Indians, the club surrendered five runs for the 19th consecutive game. That leaves them just one shy of matching the 20 in a row set by the 1924 Philadelphia Phillies, which is the presumed major league record (according to the baseball-reference.com database that goes back as far as 1913).
There’s no way around it: the 2017 Orioles’ pitchers are on a historic run of futility.
The team they’re close to tying for the record isn’t one that any pitching staff would want to be associated with. Those 1924 Phillies finished the season 55-96, a full 40 games out of first place. Their 4.87 ERA was the worst in baseball.
During their historic 20-game stretch from Sept. 3 to Sept. 24, the Phillies went 4-16 with a 7.20 ERA. They were outscored 169-116 and allowed 10 or more runs five times.
Of the eight Phillies pitchers who started a game in that stretch, seven of them had an ERA of 6.00 or higher during the streak. Right-handers Whitey Glazner (13.17) and Bill Hubbell (11.45) were the hardest hit, but Clarence Mitchell (7.31), Jimmy Ring (6.95) and Hal Carlson (6.38) added fuel to the fire. A guy named Lerton Pinto showed up for one game and gave up four runs without recording an out.
Those Phillies were also a bad defensive team, leading to 23 unearned runs in those 20 games. In one game on Sept. 12, the Phillies allowed 10 runs — and eight of them were unearned, thanks to four errors.
For the Orioles, just like those ’24 Phillies, it’s been equal-opportunity ineptitude.
Fittingly, the Orioles have used 19 different pitchers during their current 19-game streak. Only one has made it through the entire stretch without allowing a run: closer Brad Brach, who has pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings in seven games, with precious few save opportunities.
Everyone else has been touched up at least once. The starting pitchers, naturally, have been the worst of the lot. Chris Tillman, Wade Miley and Kevin Gausman have each made four starts during the streak; their ERAs in that span are 11.88, 10.91 and 8.14, respectively. Alec Asher has a 9.53 ERA in two starts and three relief appearances.
Even Dylan Bundy, the Orioles’ de facto ace, has struggled. He’s 1-3 with a 6.64 ERA in four starts, prompting the Orioles to give him extra rest before his next start.
The bullpen isn’t blameless, either. Although several relievers have pitched well — including Brach (0.00 ERA), Richard Bleier (0.87) and Mychal Givens (1.13) — many others have been torched in their brief stints. Norfolk shuttle riders Miguel Castro, Stefan Crichton, Edwin Jackson, Vidal Nuno, Logan Verrett, Jimmy Yacabonis and Gabriel Ynoa have combined to serve up 37 runs in 29 innings.
All told, the Orioles have a 7.22 ERA (134 earned runs in 167 innings) during this 19-game stretch, giving up 10 or more runs five times. They’ve been outscored 139-74 and have a 6-13 record.
The Orioles are aware of the streak, but understandably don’t seem eager to talk about it.
“If there has been [conversation], it’s kind of between us. It’s in house,” Miley said. “We’re going out there and working our tails off and trying to get back on track, and I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
It’s hard to believe that this, of all Orioles teams, is the one that’s carrying the streak of five-run outings. Even during the Orioles’ 14 years of losing from 1998-2011, they never gave up five runs in 19 straight games. And a lot of those teams had terrible pitching. Every season from 2006 through 2011, the Orioles had the worst or second-worst pitching staff in the AL by ERA. Yet none of them fell victim to the dubious feat the 2017 team currently holds.
The latest pitching stumble came from Miley on Thursday. After giving up a pair of runs in the second, Miley seemed to be on his way to a clean inning in the third, getting two quick outs.
But he was frustratingly unable to get the last out. He fell behind each of the next three hitters 2-0 in the count, allowing two walks and a single, and then gave up an Austin Jackson two-run single on a full count.
“I felt like even after the two-out walk, I got a pitch away on three different hitters, but just didn’t execute the pitch,” Miley said. “It’s probably a different ballgame if I can just execute. I had three chances to make a pitch and didn’t. It just didn’t work out.
“I had [Edwin] Encarnacion 2-2, kind of set up for a curveball and just hung it. He hit the ball down left field and just extended it. Then I walked [Carlos] Santana. Then the long at-bat to Jackson, and he slapped one through the six hole, and that was it.”
The two-out rally gave the Indians a 4-2 lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
“What hurt him is he got two outs, and then it took him way too many pitches to get out of the inning, ended up giving up two runs,” said acting manager John Russell. “If we get out of that inning, it’s obviously a different thing for him. It’s just one of those things, we’ve got to find a way to get that out when you’re in that situation. That was the inning that really hurt.”
Offense can’t find the timely hit
The Orioles’ offense had its troubles, too. Indians starter Mike Clevinger was ripe for the picking. In the first three innings, he threw 75 pitches, walked four batters, hit two others and gave up four hits. Yet the Orioles somehow scored only two runs against him. They went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
Hitting in the clutch is normally one of the Orioles’ strengths. Entering the night, they led the AL with a .304 average and .885 OPS with men in scoring position. But Thursday was a different story.
“That’s the way the game is,” Russell said. “You look at stats, and you look at things, and this team’s good at this and that, you’ve still got to go out and do it. … It’s why you play the game. Just because it says something on paper doesn’t mean it’s always going to happen for you. You’ve still got to grind it out.”
While Russell, the Orioles’ bench coach, managed Thursday’s game, Buck Showalter and wife Angela were in Dallas becoming grandparents for the first time.
Showalter’s daughter, Allie, and husband Andrew welcomed 9-pound, 1-ounce baby Winston into the world Thursday morning. Baby and parents — and grandparents — are doing fine.
Congratulations all around to the Showalter family.