This really isn’t a time for mulligans. Every game counts for the Orioles at this point, so dropping one that they easily could have won is disheartening.
It’s particularly disheartening because they were beat up – 11-8 – by a last-place Toronto Blue Jays team that had lost four in a row and 10 of their past 12.
But the real reason Thursday night’s performance was a buzzkill: It was the starting pitching that collapsed again.
On the final night of the season in which the Orioles could add a player from another organization that would be eligible for the playoffs, it’s apparent that if the Orioles fail to climb into the second American League Wild Card spot, it will be squarely on the shoulders of the Orioles’ rotation.
Jeremy Hellickson, who was acquired in late July to help stabilize the rotation, was the culprit this time.
What appeared to be a solid outing Thursday became a nightmare for Hellickson in the fifth. He was handed a 5-2 lead, but allowed five runs to score with two outs. Previously, Hellickson had only allowed a two-run homer to Kendrys Morales – one of three by Morales on a seven-RBI night; Morales also homered twice against reliever Mychal Givens.
”I made that mistake to Morales and that was about it (before the fifth),” Hellickson said. “Command was just way off for me. Really haven’t had that poor command this year. Just really couldn’t get a feel for it. And the off-speed I couldn’t throw for strikes either.
The seven runs allowed and 4 2/3 innings pitched by Hellickson tied his worst performance as an Oriole (Aug. 18 versus the Los Angeles Angels) and his four walks matched his total in his first five Orioles games combined.
“I just fell behind on way too many guys. Too many walks,” said Hellickson, whose Orioles’ ERA in six starts is 6.55. “This has happened way too many times this year. I mean, two outs, no runs. Just like that, there was a five-spot up there. So, I’ve got to find a way to get that third out that inning.”
Hellickson has now had three quality starts for the Orioles and three clunkers – allowing six runs or more in each of those.
Some of my Twitter followers were chirping that manager Buck Showalter left Hellickson in the game too long.
But he’s a 30-year-old veteran who had just 88 pitches when he was pulled. He had two outs with one runner on in the fifth when he unraveled. It’s easy to point fingers in retrospect, but Hellickson has to go deeper there. Period. And he knows that.
“Yeah, I mean it goes back to I’ve just got to find a way to get that third out,” he said. “You’ve got, I think, a three-run lead, and I just can’t walk four guys with a lead like that. And also knowing we’re not gonna stop scoring, too. I’ve gotta get us out of that inning and get us back in the dugout.”
Call-ups for Friday, including Sisco and Alvarez
Rosters expand on Friday, and according to the Virginian-Pilot, the Orioles summoned four players from Triple-A Norfolk after Thursday night’s game: outfielder Joey Rickard, designated hitter Pedro Alvarez, reliever Jimmy Yacabonis and catcher Chance Sisco.
None of the four is a surprise, though both Sisco and Alvarez are not on the 40-man roster. The Orioles will add both Friday – they currently have 39 — so they must cut loose at least one member of their 40-man roster Friday. Another player will have to go when shortstop J.J. Hardy returns from the 60-day disabled list within the next few days.
Alvarez, 30, who played 109 games with the Orioles last year, has been at Norfolk all season. He hit .239 with 26 homers in 138 games there.
Sisco, 22, was the Orioles’ top prospect to begin the season. He hit .267 with seven homers in 97 games. He’ll be making his big league debut the first time he gets into a game with the Orioles.
The Orioles desperately wanted to add a third catcher, and it will be interesting to see how much playing time Sisco gets, or if he’ll solely be used as an emergency option.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter said there will be other promotions after this wave; the club would like to add a few more relievers.
Schoop hits century mark
Jonathan Schoop already had more RBIs in a season than any other second baseman in club history. With an eighth inning single, he became the first to ever reach the 100 RBI mark.
He’s the second American League hitter to get to 100 this year; his mentor Nelson Cruz of the Seattle Mariners has 103.
It’s just another impressive benchmark for what has been truly a breakout season for the 25-year-old Schoop.
No trades Thursday
Executive vice president Dan Duquette has made six trades in his first five Augusts with the team. He didn’t make one Thursday, though, the last day to acquire a player from another organization who could be used in the postseason.
The team they have now is the one that will have to get them to the Wild Card spot — and potentially beyond.