KANSAS CITY, Mo.—For cynical fans, this weekend’s three-game series between the Orioles and Kansas City Royals could be termed the battle for Bobby Witt Jr.
Witt, a high school shortstop, who won the High School Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game, is the clubhouse leader for top pick in next June’s draft. After Friday’s 9-2 loss to the Royals, the Orioles are closer to securing that pick.
The Orioles’ three-game winning streak ended, and their 40-95 record is 3 ½ games worse than Kansas City’s.
For manager Buck Showalter, there isn’t any wavering about his mission, even if the top pick is guaranteed to the team with the worst record.
“We try to win every game we play the rest of the time,” Showalter said. “That’s our job description. Certainly the fans deserve that. When we get through every nine innings, I want to feel like…the Orioles have gotten better in some capacity of trying to get back to where we want to go.
“I ask myself with just about every move I make: Is this going to better us as we go forward?”
The futures of Showalter and Dan Duquette, the Orioles’ executive vice president of baseball operations, are cloudy. Neither might be around next June when the Orioles get a high selection.
There have been some excellent top picks in recent years—Washington’s Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper in 2009 and 2010, and Houston’s Carlos Correa in 2012. Orioles shortstop Tim Beckham was the overall top pick by Tampa Bay in 2008.
Houston followed Correa’s pick with Brady Aiken a year later and Mark Appel in 2014. Neither Aiken nor Appel has pitched in the big leagues. Aiken never signed with the Astros and Appel was traded to Philadelphia before stepping away from the game earlier this year.
“If you look back through drafts the last 10 years and look at the first five picks and see if the No. 1 guy or the No. 2 guy was always the best one in those drafts, I think you’ll get an answer to that question,” Showalter said about fans believing it sometimes pays to lose.
“Somebody you perceive as this right now, by next June might be completely different. Be careful about getting too far ahead of yourself.”
Cashner takes the loss
Andrew Cashner saw his record drop to 4-13 after allowing four runs on nine hits in 5 1/3 innings.
“That was probably some of the worst stuff I’ve carried in a game,” Cashner said. “My sinker was not there tonight. Off-speed pitches were not there. Didn’t really carry anything for a strike. Didn’t get ahead of guys.”
Showalter said that Cashner was “having trouble gripping the breaking ball. He never really had a feel for it. It’s hard to go through that many hitters, especially left-handers, without the feel for a breaking ball.”
Yefry Ramirez allowed two runs and Ryan Meisinger three more. The Orioles were baffled by Brad Keller, a Rule 5 pick who was traded from Cincinnati to Kansas City. He gave up two runs on four hits in eight innings.
“We got four hits tonight…That’s probably for me the story,” Showalter said.
Mullins was Orioles’ offense and defense
Cedric Mullins, with a leadoff homer and double, scored both Orioles runs. Mullins, who didn’t start three of the past four games because of hip soreness, is hitting .317 in his first 18 games. All three of his home runs have come on the road.
“It’s just a matter of the team and the grind. It’s been a long season,” Mullins said. “To come in and have the immediate success I’m having it’s just big, but I always play for the win.”
Showalter noted the ball carried unusually well in cavernous Kauffman Stadium. The Royals hit three home runs, and Mullins caught three deep flies to center.
“You can tell his legs were feeling good,” Showalter said. “Let’s see how they feel tomorrow. As much as he ran around tonight. That game would have been out of hand if he hadn’t have made some of the plays he made tonight. He was a real bright spot.”
Orioles lose their 95th
For the 10th time in franchise history, the Orioles have lost at least 95 games. It’s the first time since 2010, the year Showalter took over for the final two months of the season, that they’ve lost that many. That year, they lost 96.
The Orioles are headed for their third 100-loss season. In 1954, their first year in Baltimore, they went 54-100, and in 1988, they finished 54-107.
Trumbo surgery details
Mark Trumbo will have arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on either Sept. 6 or 7. The surgery will be performed by Orioles orthopedist Dr. Leigh Ann Curl.
“If everything goes well, [he] should make the start of the season next year,” Showalter said. “It’s about a six-month rehab.”
The Orioles recalled outfielder Joey Rickard from Norfolk and designated Craig Gentry for assignment. Rickard had last been optioned to the Tides on Aug. 19. Pitcher Jhan Marinez was reinstated from the 10-day disabled list and outrighted to Norfolk.
Removing Gentry and Marinez from the 40-man roster opens two spots for additions of non-roster minor leaguers. Showalter expects the Orioles to add one or two players on Saturday when rosters expand.