ST. PETERSBURG, Florida—The unlikely duo of Tom Eshelman and Asher Wojciechowski started for the Orioles the past two nights, pitched decently, but the Orioles couldn’t come up with a win in either game.
Eshelman made his major league debut on Monday night and left with a lead that the Orioles bullpen couldn’t hold.
Wojciechowski, starting for the first time since August 23, 2017, trailed 2-1 heading into the sixth, but allowed a two-run single to Avisail Garcia, and the Orioles lost their third straight, 6-3, to the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night.
On Sunday, Wojciechowski who’d been with the Orioles in spring training a year ago and stayed with Norfolk until exercising his opt-out in July, was with Columbus, Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate. He was told he was traded, and 48 hours later he was starting for the Orioles.
“I just looked at it as an opportunity,” Wojciechowski said. “A chance to showcase my skills, a chance to establish myself as the big league pitcher that I am.
“…Last year, being in Norfolk, being with Baltimore, not getting a shot. And I took my opt-out. It’s just kind of crazy how things come full circle sometimes. This year I’m pitching well in Columbus, not planning on taking my opt-out, not knowing what’s going to happen, then all of a sudden I’m traded back and getting a chance this year.”
Wojciechowski allowed a home run to Brandon Lowe, Tampa Bay’s second batter of the game, and an RBI single to Lowe in the third.
Chris Davis hit his sixth home run of the season, his first since May 12, with one out in the third against Charlie Morton, who was dominant.
“I like seeing him get around on a fastball, there’s no doubt about it, and a good one by Charlie,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “I just like when Chris is on time with the fastball. He got that one, and it was good to see.”
Hyde yanked Eshelman after five innings, but let Wojciechowski begin the sixth. Lowe fouled a ball off his lower right leg, but continued and managed a single to left against the shift on a pitch that jammed him. He was removed from the game with a bruise after he had trouble getting to first.
Tommy Pham walked, and both runners moved up a base on a Wojciechowski pitch that got away from catcher Chance Sisco and was ruled a wild pitch. Garcia’s single scored two, and the Orioles were behind, 4-1.
Wojciechowski was 46th player used by the Orioles this year, and the 14th starting pitcher as manager Brandon Hyde continues to look at many players.
“We got 25 auditions,” Hyde said. “We’ve got 25 guys that are auditioning to be big leaguers, so everybody on the club is auditioning for their career.”
For Wojciechowski, it’s another chance to jumpstart his big league career.
“Every game, you have nerves,” Wojciechowski said. “I was nervous, but I get nervous before any type of game I go in. Once you get out there, it’s just pitching and playing baseball again.”
Besides the home run, Morton allowed the Orioles little else. He struck out six straight Orioles before Rio Ruiz and Hanser Alberto singled in the seventh. They moved up on a passed ball by catcher Mike Zunino, but Morton caught Davis looking to end the inning. He struck out 12 on a night when the Orioles struck out 16 times, including three strikeouts for Catonsville’s Adam Kolarek, who pitched the eighth for the Rays.
Pham’s two-run double against Jimmy Yacabonis put Tampa Bay ahead 6-1 in the seventh.
Chance Sisco hit a two-run home run in the ninth off Chaz Roe to cut the Rays’ lead to 6-3. Before Sisco’s home run, he was hitless in three at-bats against Morton.
“Fastball, curveball looked really good tonight,” Sisco said. “He was throwing both for a strike whenever he wanted, really. With a guy like that, obviously, he’s an All-Star for a reason so he was getting ahead of you 0-1, 0-2 pretty quickly. It’s kind of tough to get out of that.”
Sisco believes he’s making progress with his defense behind the plate.
“A lot more confident,” Sisco said. “Just working better with the pitching staff. A lot more confident with them. I think they feed off of that, having a guy back there that is confident.”
The Orioles are 24-61, equaling their 85-game record from last season.
Roster moves: Eshelman was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk and Josh Lucas was activated from the 10-day injured list.
Lucas, who had been on the IL since June 14, told Hyde he didn’t need a rehab assignment.
“In Lucas’ case, he has been throwing a couple of sides and we felt comfortable with him just coming off the 10-day and being ready to go because it was nothing major,” Hyde said. “We just didn’t feel like he needed a rehab assignment. We needed a player and he was here, so he’s active and ready to go.”
Lucas did not pitch in the game.
Mercedes dies: Luis Mercedes, who was one of the players from the Dominican Republic to be signed by the Orioles and play for the club, has died at 51. Mercedes, an outfielder, played 52 games from 1991-93 with the team.