Andrew Cashner threw five-plus innings in their 9-5 win over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday, and his three runs give the starters an ERA of 5.35 in 65 2/3 innings
Jimmy Yacabonis, Tanner Scott and Mychal Givens allowed two runs in four innings to reduce the bullpen’s ERA to 7.46 in 66 1/3 innings.
Oriole starters have gone only six innings twice. David Hess threw 6 1/3 hitless innings on April 1, and Cashner finished six a day later.
In two of those games, manager Brandon Hyde employed the opener, when Nate Karns, who transitioned to a bullpen role before landing on the 10-day injured list because of a strained right forearm, pitched only two innings.
It’s been a series of short starts and ineffective outings from the bullpen.
Hyde’s bullpen strategy might look improvised, but it’s not. Before each game, he meets with pitching coach Doug Brocail, and they decide who can pitch that day—and who can’t.
“You game plan before the game, and you give yourself different scenarios,” Hyde said. “How the game is going to play out—if you’re up a couple, if you’re down a couple, close game, and you pick pockets for guys. You go through their lineup and you pick pockets where you see good matchups or bad matchups you want to stay away from.”
On Saturday, the Orioles used three pitchers in relief, starting with Yacabonis when Cashner gave up back-to-back hits to start the fifth.
“We’re still getting to know our guys a little bit and so things might change, but that’s how you go into the game,” Hyde said. “Give yourself different scenarios.”
The Orioles won four straight when they took the final two of their opening series at Yankee Stadium and the first two at Rogers Centre. Two of those wins were by one run, and the other two by two runs.
Since then, the Orioles haven’t played a one-run game and have lost all three of their two-run games. With so many games decided by large margins, the Orioles’ bullpen hasn’t been used ideally.
“I think it’s the way the games are going, especially the first 10 games or so,” Hyde said. “We only had three or four guys available a night, so when you go into a game, ‘OK, I’ve got these four or five guys available. How am I going to use these five guys?’”
Hyde is missing two pieces from his bullpen, Karns and left-hander Richard Bleier, who was put on the 10-day injured list because of shoulder tendinitis this week.
Mychal Givens, who struck out four of the five Red Sox he faced to close out Saturday’s win, was the Orioles’ projected closer coming into the season. However, he has yet to have a save opportunity in his first six games. The only four saves came during the four-game winning streak, when Mike Wright, Paul Fry, Bleier and Castro got saves.
That was by necessity, Hyde explained.
“When we were doing the opener and we were more conservative with guys, I only had a few guys to choose from nightly,” Hyde said.
“That’s why things were changing so much. That’s why we had four [different] guys get four saves, and those types of things because there were so many guys who were down on a nightly basis. I think once our bullpen gets solidified and guys are able to go back-to-back a little bit more…I’m going to have more options.”
On Saturday, Givens was sharp, and impressive.
“I’m trying to use Mike in the spot where we need him the most,” Hyde said. “It could be a stopper, it could be a closer. With game’s on the line, I want Mike Givens in the game. And today we needed five outs from him, and he did an amazing job. Five quick outs, didn’t throw many pitches.”