BALTIMORE—In this most challenging of Orioles seasons, the team was presented with a new challenge on Sunday. They wanted to avoid being part of history.
For eight innings, Ryne Stanek and Ryan Yarbrough completely throttled the Orioles, not allowing a baserunner. There was nothing close to a hit, and only two relatively hard-hit balls.
The Tampa Bay Rays were three outs away from the first combined perfect game in baseball history, and the Orioles couldn’t have that happen.
In their history, they’ve never been involved in a perfect game, and Hanser Alberto wanted that to continue.
Alberto led off the ninth and slapped a single to right-center field against Yarbrough, allowing the Orioles to avoid humiliation if not a 4-1 loss to the Rays.
“Finally, we get it,” Alberto said. “We were trying to get [it] the whole game, and he was pitching really good, a really good performance, pitching in and out. His offspeed was really good. Every inning, we go there and compete and try to get somebody on base. Finally, we did it in the ninth inning.”
Alberto said he started to think about the no-hitter after four innings.
“Every time we go four, five innings, then we start thinking that we have to do something,” Alberto said. “We don’t [want] history like that.”
Stevie Wilkerson followed Alberto with another single, and Chance Sisco struck out. Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash removed Yarbrough and Oliver Drake retired Jonathan Villar on a force out.
Anthony Santander singled to score Alberto. The Orioles had also avoided a shutout.
Emilio Pagan struck out Trey Mancini to end the game.
“You’re just hoping somebody gets a hit,” manager Brandon Hyde said.
“You’re sitting there watching and you’re hoping. I saw a little frustration from our guys today … later on in the game, which I think is OK. They were showing some emotion … they don’t want to be embarrassed.”
It was the 65th defeat, although not a history-making one.
“I mean, we lost the game,” Hyde said. “ I thought they did a really nice job. I thought Stanek was just dominating. I thought Yarbrough, that was the best I’ve ever seen him.
“I didn’t think our at-bats were real good, so that’s what I was thinking about for the majority of the game. They put a clinic on how to pitch inside and be able to use offspeed stuff to chase, and we just kept chasing the ball.
“I don’t know how many times we got jammed early in the count. But for me, that’s not competitive when that continues to happen. So then you’re just hoping we get a hit somewhere down the line, and Alberto got one through the shift.”
Eshelman pitches at home: Tom Eshelman was recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to make his first start at home. He allowed four runs on five hits in 5 2/3 innings, striking out seven and walking one.
Austin Meadows and Michael Brosseau homered. Brosseau’s was a two-run shot. He has four home runs this season, all against the Orioles.
Eshelman allowed two runs on six hits in five innings in his major league debut on July 1 at Tampa Bay.
“I thought Tommy threw the ball great,” Hyde said “I was really impressed … a ton of strikeouts. He was ahead of 17 hitters, first-pitch strikes. So he did a really nice job. Pitched to the edges, changed speeds, kept them off balance. Just made a bad pitch to a guy that’s killing us right now. Brosseau and Gleyber Torres are O’s killers.”
Eshelman was rooting for the offense to come through.
“I’m not going to lie,” Eshelman said. “I’m really glad we broke it up.”
Bundy on health and trades: Pitcher Dylan Bundy got a cortisone shot on his right knee Saturday. Bundy is on the 10-day injured list with tendinitis and expects to miss one start. He’ll be eligible to pitch again on July 23 in Arizona.
“I’ve been dealing with it for over two months now,” Bundy said. He felt soreness in the knee while he warmed up for Friday’s game, in which he allowed seven runs on eight hits in the one inning he worked.
“This was the first time I actually felt it in a game, though,” Bundy said. “You don’t want to change the way you throw, the way you land or how you land or how you’re pitching on the mound. I thought it was best to get it taken care of now.”
Bundy’s locker was adjacent to Andrew Cashner’s. He wasn’t stunned that Cashner was traded Saturday to the Boston Red Sox for two 17-year-old international prospects as the Orioles strive to acquire more young talent in their rebuild.
“I think we all knew it was coming, but still it catches you by surprise,” Bundy said. “We wish the best for him and he’s going to have a good time over there.”
Bundy might hear his name mentioned between now and the July 31 trade deadline, even though he’s 4-11 with a 5.28 ERA.
“I try not to think about it,” Bundy said. “It seems like every year there are rumors out there. I’m sure it will, but I try not to pay too much attention to it and just go out there and do your job, and that’s pitching.”
Rotation woes: Without Cashner and Bundy, at least for the short term, Hyde will have to juggle the rotation again.
Asher Wojciechowski will start on Tuesday, and Aaron Brooks, who pitched a hitless 2 2/3 innings on Saturday, goes Wednesday against the Washington Nationals.
“I’ve never had to deal with this rotation stuff that we’ve had this year,” Hyde said. “That’s been challenging. You can’t win in this league if you can’t pitch. It’s hard to stay competitive if you’re not pitching. It’s hard to stay competitive if you’re down a bunch of runs early.
“That’s been challenging, to piece together a rotation instead of rolling out five guys and having a guy or two that’s a swing guy or a guy in Triple-A that you call up when necessary.”
The Orioles have used a club record 15 starters.
“We’ve had just a mixed bag of, ‘Who can do this now?’” Hyde said. “We’re not in an ideal spot, and hopefully these days we’ll look back on, and say, ‘Wow, how did we do it?’”