Orioles' bullpen implosion Sunday was inevitable - starters must pitch deeper - BaltimoreBaseball.com

Dan Connolly

Orioles’ bullpen implosion Sunday was inevitable — starters must pitch deeper

This was going to happen, at some point. The Orioles bullpen was going to break.

First, these guys are human. They don’t always have great control; they can’t always be perfect.

And, frankly, the relievers can’t be averaging four innings per game as a group and be expected to always produce. That’s the real problem here.

As Orioles manager Buck Showalter said, “you’re going to pay that piper.”

Consider that piper rewarded handsomely after the Orioles’ 7-3 loss to the New York Yankees on Sunday afternoon that snapped the club’s four-game winning streak to begin the 2017 season.

The concerning thing is that Sunday’s implosion is going to happen more often if the starters don’t pitch deep into games – a problem last year and a concern again.

Dylan Bundy’s seven-inning start Wednesday was the gold standard; Kevin Gausman lasted 5 1/3 and 4 2/3 in his two games; Ubaldo Jimenez, 4 1/3; and Wade Miley, somehow, made it through five Sunday.

Yes, it’s early, and starters are still increasing their pitch counts. But five innings and change is not acceptable. The starters understand that concept. It’s making it happen that’s difficult.

“I looked up in the third and saw 70 pitches and I was like, ‘Man, I’ve gotta (go deeper).’ Our bullpen has been, I don’t want to say overused, but they’ve just been throwing (a lot) over the last four games. And I said, ‘I’ve gotta figure out a way to get into the fifth inning.’ I was shooting for the sixth, but it didn’t work out,” Miley said. “I have to take some responsibility for that because my job is to kind of to recognize (that) and give them a break and try to get deep into the game. And I wasn’t able to do that. But those guys are going to be fine.”


The Orioles’ bullpen had thrown 16 2/3 scoreless innings in four games heading into Sunday. They made it 17 1/3 before Tyler Wilson allowed a two-run triple to Ronald Torreyes in the sixth. Mychal Givens surrendered the game-tying run in the eighth on an Aaron Judge homer and Darren O’Day was tagged with the loss by giving up four runs, muddied by three walks, in the ninth.

“He’s struggling a little bit to find his step early on. He had that flu and set him back. He’ll work his way through it. He’ll be fine,” Showalter said about O’Day. “Just barely missing, and a guy with his approach and repertoire depends on that, and getting some counts in his favor, and expanding the zone. I was talking to some of the guys with the video … He was barely missing.”

No question that home plate umpire Brian Gorman didn’t give O’Day a couple strike calls early on. But O’Day has been around this game a long time. He needs to adjust and didn’t. It happens.

“I threw some good pitches early in the outing, and they were just pitcher’s pitches and I couldn’t make the adjustment to get back into the zone to get strikes called,” he said. “Over-adjusted on some pitches. And you put three guys on base, bad things are usually going to happen. I gave up a couple of hits, they got some runs. It just wasn’t a good outing. It was pretty bad.”

I’m not worried about O’Day at this point. He was sapped of his energy by a nasty virus last week. He’s still getting back to full strength.

The problem, once it was obvious O’Day was struggling, was that Brad Brach and Zach Britton weren’t available. They had pitched in each of the first four games of the season.

That’s not Showalter’s fault. He’s trying to win these games. And no one handles a bullpen better. No one protects his relievers more carefully.

What it comes down to is that the starters have to pitch deeper. It’s early. Maybe they will.

But, in an otherwise excellent first week for the Orioles, that’s the major concern that I see.



  1. Raveonjo

    April 9, 2017 at 7:07 pm

    Its 1988 and the Birds have no viable starters. Frank Robinson decides to go with 3 relievers, and do you know what? The Orioles won that night in Detroit. The Tigers were off-balance all night. I wonder if Frank was 3 decades ahead of the curve. I can see some innovative manager changing the paradigm one day soon and forget about starters. He will assign three pitchers three innings every three days. Experts will scoff, but if he’s successful everybody will call him a genius. Maybe Buck will be that innivator.

    • OsFanStuckInNY

      April 9, 2017 at 9:32 pm

      I was thinking the same thing yesterday. Getting very tired of starters who pitch as if a CG is only 6 innings. That’s why I call them Little Leaguers.

    • JohnnyV1971

      April 9, 2017 at 11:40 pm

      I remember that game and your absolutely right! I was a teenager when that happened. Starters want to keep the runs off the board so they nibble and try to get guys to swing at slop. Yankees and Red Sox hitters are patient so they will take the walks and the he drags on and on

    • Dan Connolly

      April 10, 2017 at 8:03 am

      Many call these Johnny Wholestaff games. They can work on occasion. But not with regularity. Too many unexpected variables in this great game to create such a paradigm.

      • Raveonjo

        April 10, 2017 at 10:25 am

        As I said, “Experts will scoff”.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 10, 2017 at 10:33 am

      Who you calling an expert? You’re obviously fairly new around here Rave. 🙂

    • Hoodsie

      April 10, 2017 at 7:53 pm

      It would take the right kind of manager and right kind of bullpen…and we have both. I’m in!!!

  2. jennings312913

    April 9, 2017 at 7:43 pm

    I wonder how long it will take the pitching staff to completely come around. Gausman hasn’t had horrible stuff from what I’ve seen but he is getting taken deep into counts because of foul balls. That drives up his pitch count and shortens his starts. Jimenez just doesn’t seem to have a repeatable delivery and is therefore lacking command. Miley had some decent stuff today but couldn’t find the zone.
    I completely agree that this was inevitable after the amount of use the pen saw in the first four games. But I’m not ready to give up on the team yet even if PECOTA followers will probably use this one game as proof that the Orioles are a basement dwelling team for 2017.

    • Eldersburg Enigma

      April 9, 2017 at 9:28 pm

      4-1 record with a run differential of +1. Haha!

    • Dan Connolly

      April 10, 2017 at 8:05 am

      No giving up on the team. This is a good club. Starters just need to go deeper. They aren’t incapable of that.

  3. OsFanStuckInNY

    April 9, 2017 at 9:30 pm

    Hey, Jeremy Guthrie is DFA.
    What are the odds we see him back in an O’s uniform as the 5th starter?

    • JohnnyV1971

      April 9, 2017 at 11:37 pm

      pretty good odds there he was an innings eater during the lean years

    • Dan Connolly

      April 10, 2017 at 8:05 am

      A shot less than zero.

  4. scoper

    April 10, 2017 at 12:35 am

    More innings out of the starters is a no-brainer going forward — but can’t pin this loss on overworked bullpen. Wilson, Givens and O’Day were all property positioned and just couldn’t get it done. It happens. You just have to move on.

    • Dan Connolly

      April 10, 2017 at 8:10 am

      We have to agree to disagree here. Brach and Britton — and Drake — were not available due to continual work. Brach and Britton had pitched in all four games. Once O’Day got into trouble, he would have been out if the bullpen had had a normal workload. He was nearly placed on DL earlier this week because nasty flu had sapped his strength. But there was nowhere to turn Sunday.

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