BALTIMORE—It was a surprising call to have a team with 94 losses showcased on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. But ESPN always likes a chance to put the New York Yankees on national TV, and the Orioles came along for the ride.
The national audience got to see the Orioles lose for the eighth straight time, one short of their season high. The 5-3 loss puts their record at 37-94.
Casual fans may not be familiar with some of the newer Orioles — the most exciting of whom, center fielder Cedric Mullins, didn’t play because of a hip injury — and it was the first time on national TV for the Orioles since they began their overhaul last month.
In the season’s first half, the Orioles were 28-69 for a .289 winning percentage. Since they traded shortstop Manny Machado, their record is 9-25 (.265). Their next three games are against the Toronto Blue Jays, against whom they are 1-12.
Their four-game sweep by the Yankees was the fifth time the Orioles have been swept in a four-game series this season.
Offensively, the Orioles have produced more in the post-Machado era. Through the first 97 games, they were hitting just .227, and in the second half, they’ve moved up to .261.
A number of the players who have contributed to that improvement may not be with the Orioles for the long term.
“I think everybody understands what’s going on, and the opportunity they’re getting to show what they’re capable of doing, because there’s going to be a lot of evaluation I’m sure as we go forward,” manager Buck Showalter said.
“I’m not going to sit here and beat them up about it, but certainly it’s a good opportunity to evaluate and we’ve got another month or so of it … They’ve been told, and they know that. You’d like to have them get some return with some Ws, but that’s been a challenge putting a lot of games together.”
Bundy’s woes continue
Starting pitcher Dylan Bundy allowed four runs on six hits in five innings, with his record dropping to 7-13, and his ERA rising to 5.37.
Bundy’s ERA was 3.75 when he won his seventh game of the season on June 23 at Atlanta. He rolled an ankle, missing a turn and sending him briefly to the 10-disabled list.
While he and Showalter insist his health is fine, the ankle injury has coincided with a downturn in his stats.
In his last four starts, Bundy has allowed 25 earned runs in 19 1/3 innings for an 11.64 ERA. He hasn’t completed six innings in any of them.
“I thought it was a tiny bit better, a step in the right direction,” Bundy said. “Still two pitches there, and that pretty much cost me the four runs.”
The key hits were Luke Voit’s third home run, a two-run shot, and a two-run double by Miguel Andujar.
Bundy acknowledged that the losing has affected him.
“Yeah, you guys just don’t see it,” Bundy said. “That’s been my thing ever since I‘ve played baseball. One thing my dad has taught me is never show emotion on the field because the other team can see it, players behind you can see it. You never try to show anybody emotion or what you’re thinking.”
Orioles playing small ball
After the trades of Machado and second baseman Jonathan Schoop, and the loss of Mark Trumbo because of right knee inflammation, the team has lost much of its home run power.
Trey Mancini hit his team-leading 18th home run on Sunday night, but only Trumbo (17), Chris Davis (16) and Adam Jones (13) are in double digits.
With few power weapons, the Orioles have become more aggressive on the basepaths. On Sunday night, they stole four bases for the first time since July 3, 2014.
Jace Peterson, who leads the team with 11 steals in 14 attempts, stole two; Jonathan Villar, who has five steals in as many tries since joining the Orioles Aug. 2, stole one; and Craig Gentry had the other.
Showalter isn’t known for managing a team with lots of stolen bases.
“You would if we had the skills to do it,” Showalter said. “If the matchups are there with the pitchers, not necessarily the catchers. These are a lot of the same pitchers we’d like to take advantage of if we had the matchups so to speak between the skill of your players and the pitcher’s time to the plate.”
Peterson, who’s become a useful member of the team with his versatility and speed, knows the team needs to run more.
“Especially with Trumbo out, we’re not just going to be able to just pop home runs all the time,” Peterson said. “So anytime we can get a single or get a walk, get guys that can get on second somehow. Stealing bases for us is big, that gets a guy in scoring position and then get a knock and get a run. You saw it tonight.”
Peterson is trying to make an impression on the Orioles, but tries to ignore the losing.
“You really can’t think about that,” Peterson said. “You start thinking about that kind of stuff and then before you know it, you kind of become miserable if things don’t go your way. Right now, we’re just trying to win ballgames.
“It’s not been the funnest as far as the outcome of the games, but as long as we can continue to have fun and just play hard and see what happens, it’ll take us to the end of the year, but we can go on a stretch. Now, it’s time to beat some teams that are in the playoff hunt and try to at least compete that way and just go out there and compete, do our work and see what happens.”
How many extra players?
On Saturday, rosters can expand to 40 players, and Showalter said that Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette had yet to broach the subject with him.
The Orioles will add a third catcher, which could be Norfolk’s Chance Sisco.
Showalter said adding non-roster players won’t be an issue because the team can maneuver its 40-rman roster.
Mullins, who took away a home run from Giancarlo Stanton with a leaping catch at the fence on Saturday, hurt his hip on a throw home, Showalter said. He hopes Mullins’ absence will be a short one.