ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—Over the years, Tropicana Field has been a house of horrors for the Orioles. This year, they’ve lost six of eight here. Since the Rays came into existence in 1998, the Orioles are 88-100 here. That 100th loss came a night after the Orioles recorded their 100th loss in 2018.
In Buck Showalter’s eight years as Orioles manager, there have been a lot of strange days and nights involving his team in this building. Friday night’s 14-2 defeat marked just the third time in 65 seasons the team has lost at least 100 games. It also came a few hours after David Hess, who started Saturday, was hit in the eye with a football during a conditioning drill.
Hess escaped injury and was able to start as scheduled in the 10-5 loss to Tampa Bay Saturday night.
In September 2010, just after Showalter took over as Orioles manager, second baseman Brian Roberts suffered his first concussion at Tropicana Field. In disgust, he slammed a bat over his helmet. Roberts, who had another concussion the next year, recovered and appeared healthy when he injured a hamstring that required surgery in April 2013—again at Tropicana Field.
That wasn’t even the most serious Orioles injury here. In September 2013, Manny Machado injured his left knee running over first base. That injury ended Machado’s 2013 season and required surgery, leading to a late start for 2014.
In 2015, the Orioles had to play 13 games here because the April riots in Baltimore forced relocation of three games scheduled for Oriole Park. The Orioles served as the home team.
Showalter pointed out there are some good things about the ballpark, which the Rays are seeking to replace with a new dome in Tampa, about a half-hour away.
“Most of the people here in the dead of summer are probably pretty glad there’s a dome here,” Showalter said while hearing thunder outside the building. “You know you’re going to play, and you know it’s going to be comfortable. There’s a lot of advantage to a home team here.”
Hess’ hard first
Tampa Bay scored four times in the first, but Hess wasn’t charged with any earned runs. Renato Nunez’s throwing error on leadoff batter Mallex Smith’s grounder to third started the fun for Tampa Bay. Hess threw a wild pitch when the ball squirted out of his hand. The third out wasn’t recorded until Willy Adames scored on the front half of an attempted double steal. Jake Bauers was tagged out heading back to first to end the inning.
Hess, who is 3-10, gave up six runs, two earned in five-plus innings.
“I did want to get him up one more time in the sixth, but we didn’t help him in the first inning, either,” Showalter said. “We made four or five errors that won’t show up in the error column. Not just defensive stuff. But David, I like the way he rebounded and found his step, but at this level it’s tough to feel your way around the first inning. His command came back a little bit, but he’s still having some trouble commanding the strike zone. Just because you’re throwing a strike doesn’t mean it’s good command.”
Hess said he had to work to overcome innings such as the first.
“I think more than anything, you want to try and keep in mind, these guys are growing and learning just as much as I am, so when they’re out, kind of going through the growing pains as well, keeping that in mind and understanding that this is going to pay off in time to come,” Hess said. “So, right now, going through it and just being supportive, being the best teammate I possibly can to those guys because I know that’s exactly what they do for me. Just trying to lift them up and pick them up where I can and unfortunately I wasn’t able to do that as well today as I needed to.”
The Orioles have four pitchers — Hess, Dylan Bundy, Alex Cobb and Andrew Cashner — who have lost at least 10 games. The team is an astounding 60 games under .500 (41-101). They allowed 10 or more runs in consecutive games for the third time this season.
Hess said there’s still incentive.
“Every guy in that clubhouse wants to win,” Hess said. “You ask them what our thought is going forward, we want to go 20-0. Obviously, there’s some factors that go into everything. We’re trying to get better as a team, but at the end of the day, we all want to win. That’s what we’re working towards as a whole and individually as well. That’s the ultimate goal.”