For all the glass-half-full Orioles’ fans hoping for a 2018 miracle, it’s time to give up the dream.
The Orioles made official on Sunday what has been unofficially clear for months: they won’t be contending for the postseason this year.
Try to contain your surprise.
With the Orioles’ ugly 8-0 loss in the series finale in Cleveland on Sunday, they’ve been mathematically eliminated. The defeat dropped them to 37-87, so even if the Orioles went on a 38-game winning streak to close their season schedule, they’d top out at 75 victories.
The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees have already exceeded that win mark. In the AL West, at least two of three contenders — the Houston Astros, Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners — are certain to finish with at least 76 wins based on their remaining head-to-head schedules. As a result, both wild-card spots are mathematically out of the Orioles’ reach.
The occasion, of course, was a mere formality for the Orioles, who continue to hold the worst record in the major leagues.
Sunday’s loss was a fitting example of how awful the club has been in nearly every facet of the game this year. The Orioles’ pitching staff was torched for eight runs, seven of them surrendered by starter Yefry Ramirez, who allowed 13 baserunners (including five walks and a hit batsman) and recorded only nine outs.
Ramirez has a 6.49 ERA in 10 games (nine starts) this season, and has yet to pitch more than five innings in any of them. Even for a club that’s fully committed to a rebuild, the Orioles might not want to keep Ramirez in the rotation for much longer, especially when there are other candidates (including John Means, Josh Rogers and Luis Ortiz) putting up strong cases at Triple-A Norfolk.
Even a quality outing might not have been enough Sunday, because the Orioles were shut out for the 11th time this season, failing to capitalize on early scoring opportunities after putting the leadoff man aboard in each of the first four innings. The Orioles also continued their season-long defensive struggles, committing two errors (one apiece by Craig Gentry and Jonathan Villar). Even the Orioles’ baserunning failed them — Villar was picked off first in the first inning to snuff a potential rally.
Adding injury to insult, designated hitter Mark Trumbo — the Orioles’ leader in OPS (on-base plus slugging) and co-leader in home runs — left the game early with inflammation in his right knee, which has bothered him sporadically this season. Trumbo is likely headed for the disabled list. Not only does that further thin out the Orioles’ lineup, but any hope of completing an August waiver trade involving Trumbo (which was already a long shot) has evaporated.
That’s not to say the Orioles’ weekend in Cleveland was a total loss. Alex Cobb delivered one of the club’s most memorable pitching performances of the season with his complete-game victory Saturday, going the distance for the first time since 2013. Cobb continued a second-half resurgence in which he has posted a 2.14 ERA in his last seven outings, throwing six quality starts in that span.
Several Orioles’ youngsters stepped up, too. Center fielder Cedric Mullins adapted well to the leadoff spot, reaching base five times in the final two games of the series to boost his on-base percentage to .457.
Rookie right-hander David Hess delivered his first quality start since June 7 with a strong, six-inning, two-run performance in Friday’s opener. In the bullpen, Ryan Meisinger, Tanner Scott, Cody Carroll and Paul Fry — all of them 25 or younger — combined to pitch 3 2/3 scoreless, hitless innings on Sunday.
Those kinds of positive performances from their young players are what the Orioles need to see during the final month and a half of this lost season. The club is in evaluation mode, sifting through its stockpile of youngsters to determine which ones could play a role on the next successful Orioles’ team.
The future, the Orioles hope, is bright — because the present is anything but.
And now, even the math can’t save them.