Starting pitching - which is getting reshuffled - remains Orioles' major problem in September -
Dan Connolly

Starting pitching — which is getting reshuffled — remains Orioles’ major problem in September


OK, so the New York Yankees blew the Orioles’ doors off Thursday afternoon, 9-1, in the rubber match of what we all thought was a key series.

The Orioles dropped two of three to the Bronx Bombers and were a middling 6-4 in their penultimate homestand of the year.

And now they go on a 10-game road trip to Cleveland, Toronto and New York, a trifecta of brutal places to play.

I can write about how the Orioles lost a major opportunity to flex their muscles in this American League Wild Card race and that, once again, they’ve made it more difficult on themselves as the final 22 games play out.



Problem is I’ve been writing about that for a couple months now. They keep hanging around the race, showing a surge only to fizzle again.

Really, there are no new angles here; only fewer days to opine about them.

The Orioles played a fairly woeful game all-around in Thursday’s make-up of Wednesday’s rainout.

The most concerning part is that Kevin Gausman, who had been tremendous in his last two outings, only lasted three innings and threw a whopping 79 pitches while allowing five runs. Gausman had been a shining light for a chunk of the second half. But not Thursday.

“Tried to go deep into the game, especially (because) this was a pretty important game for us,” Gausman said. “I’m pretty mad at myself for just kind of going out and throwing (79) pitches in three innings and getting out of there. That’s something I’ve got to be better at.”

And the offense?

Well, this was one of those days for the feast-or-famine unit. They had their opportunities against right-hander Sonny Gray, but were hitless in four at-bats with runners in scoring position and left seven on base. Even when they smoked a few pitches – such as Machado’s screamer in the seventh that became a 4-3, lineout double play – it was right at a Yankee.

Sure, you could chalk Thursday up as one bad afternoon. Every team has them. And, with the schedule change due to Wednesday’s weather, the loss of an off day and an impending long road trip, it’s not a surprise the Orioles seemingly came out without much energy.

But, frankly, it’s too late to have one of those days a couple times a week – the season should be on the line every game in September. It’s not that the Orioles aren’t trying. They just can’t keep the mojo going once they get within real grasp of the second Wild Card spot. It’s frustrating for all involved, but Orioles manager Buck Showalter is trying to stay positive.

“It’s there for us. It’s still there for us. We’re going to have to have a little help because if you won every game you play, somebody’s got to lose,” he said. “So, you control some things but you don’t. We’ve stayed engaged in the competition. I still think it’s going to be there for us, but it’s going to be hard.”

It’s going to be impossible if they don’t get consistently better starting pitching, and stop putting the offense in deep holes.

To that end, the rotation is getting shuffled a little starting with this weekend in Cleveland against an Indians’ squad that had won 14 straight heading into Thursday night.

Wade Miley will start Friday, recently recalled Gabriel Ynoa pitches Saturday and then Jeremy Hellickson faces the Indians on Sunday. Showalter has tabbed Ubaldo Jimenez, previously sent to the bullpen, to start the opener Monday in Toronto.

Dylan Bundy likely won’t start until Wednesday in Toronto, an eight-day rest. Chris Tillman has been sent to the bullpen for now. He is dealing with a sore wrist, but said it feels better and he should be fine to pitch out of the bullpen this weekend if needed.

The Orioles are trying things here with one goal in mind. Get better starting pitching. It’s been the theme all year. It shouldn’t still be the theme in September, but it is.

This was a winnable series – especially with the Yankees coming into Baltimore at 3 a.m. on Monday and losing a heartbreaker Tuesday. Yet the Yankees still managed to win two of the three at Camden Yards.

You can explain it away – and Showalter did. But the bottom line is time is running out on these Orioles and they just keep letting chances slip away, dropping four of seven after winning seven straight.

“We don’t live in that negative world with those type of approaches and mentality. We can’t or this game will eat you up,” Showalter said. “The Yankees are a pretty good team, and they’ve added pieces like Sonny Gray and (Todd) Frazier and (David) Robertson … The competition is ourselves as much as anything. We won those seven games you’re talking about in a row. We’ve gotten some quality starting pitching and, when we didn’t, a couple of those games we were able to make up for it in other areas.

“So that’s going to have to get better. We’ll see.”



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