BALTIMORE—Oriole fans who lived through the 0-21 start and 107 losses in 1988 were probably certain they’d never see anything that bad from this franchise again.
Thirty years later, the Orioles lost for the 107th time with 12 games still to play in this dreadful season.
Their 5-0 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night was remarkable only because manager Buck Showalter resorted to using an “opener,” a reliever who wasn’t going to pitch more than two or three innings.
Evan Phillips, who wasn’t even in the first few rounds of additions from the minor leagues this month, was chosen to start and allowed three runs in the second inning.
Sean Gilmartin, who has two major league starts to his credit, pitched a creditable 4 2/3 innings, but the Orioles’ offense produced just three singles, none after Jonathan Villar’s leadoff hit in the fourth. They were shut out for the 15th time this season.
The game was played in two hours, 16 minutes, the shortest Orioles nine-inning game since July 29, 2015. It was witnessed by an announced crowd of 8,198, the second smallest in Oriole Park history. The tiny gathering had to wait out a 30-minute rain delay at the start, and they saw another sad demonstration.
“It’s frustrating to say the least,” first baseman Chris Davis said. “Once we hit 100, it was kind of like… I don’t know, I honestly didn’t have any words for it. It was embarrassing. It was frustrating.
“It’s one of those things you never want to be associated with, but at the same time, you’ve got to learn how to turn the page and start somewhere. Why not start now? I’m not sure where we’re headed, but at some point, you’ve just got to change it up I guess.”
Davis, who is one of just six Orioles who have been active all season, sees some positive signs.
“I think you’re starting to see the team jell a little bit,” Davis said. “It’s tough. It’s tough when you have somewhat a different lineup every night. But we understand that some of these guys need to get looks and this might be the only chance they have to really get a look in big league ballgames. I think the clubhouse chemistry has always been really good. It’s always been good. But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little down right now because of the loss and the way things are going.”
Showalter, who said he doesn’t look at the standings and has only a general idea of the statistical specifics of this horror show, just plows ahead.
“I’ve got too many things, and people depending on me to do certain things between now and the end of the season,” Showalter said. “I think because it’s unpleasant to wrap around, probably I’m as guilty as anybody of staying tunnel vision every day. about what we’re trying to do what’s best.”
Phillips as opener
Showalter and pitching coach Roger McDowell tipped off Phillips Sunday that he might be starting. Phillips had started just once in his professional career, at Triple-A Gwinnett in 2017.
“It wasn’t so strange,” Phillips said. “I am familiar with starting in the past …”Preparation for the game, not a lot really changes. Just the timeline changes a little bit. And then I’d probably say the weirdest thing is going out for the anthem on the field but outside of that it’s all the same thing.”
Showalter felt fortunate to get through the game using just Phillips, Gilmartin and Cody Carroll. The Orioles still need a starter for Wednesday and might add John Means and Dillon Tate, who both threw side sessions in Sarasota, Fla., Monday.
“I’d like to go into it and win a game, but if you had told me going into it that we were going to be able to get those types of contributions from those three guys, you would have been OK with that,” Showalter said.
Showalter said that catcher Chance Sisco was in concussion protocol and still experiencing the after-effects of a lacerated chin. He didn’t offer a guess on when Sisco might be cleared to play.
Steve Wilkerson, who has been hampered by a hamstring injury, could play Tuesday or Wednesday.