The Orioles and Detroit Tigers split a four-game series that some viewed as the battle for the basement. The split leaves the Orioles 3 ½ games ahead of the Tigers with 12 to play. Barring a turnaround, the Orioles will finish with the second-worst record in baseball and the No. 2 pick in the 2020 draft.
Only on Saturday was the series painful to watch. The Orioles had two more runners thrown out on the bases, watched Jonathan Villar take a called third strike on a bunt attempt and couldn’t protect ninth- and 12th-inning leads. They allowed a game-tying home run with two outs in the ninth, a game-tying walk in the 12th and a grand slam walkoff by Detroit catcher John Hicks.
Rookie Ryan Eades was brought in by manager Brandon Hyde with the bases loaded in the 12th and walked in the tying run before hanging a breaking ball to Hicks that put an exclamation point on the team’s 100th loss.
In the Orioles’ 5-2 loss on Monday, Eades rebounded with a scoreless eighth.
The Orioles’ bullpen has been better of late, but left-hander Paul Fry has struggled. Fry was the losing pitcher on Saturday, and he’s 0-6 with an 8.64 ERA and 1.868 WHIP in 23 appearances in the second half.
Last season, Fry had a strong second half. He retired the last 18 batters he faced in 2018.
Next season, pitchers will be required to face a minimum of three batters, and Fry’s value could fall. Thirteen of his 60 appearances this year have been to one or two batters.
Remaining schedule: The Orioles’ final 12 games are against teams that aren’t in the playoff race. They have six games with Toronto and three each with Seattle and Boston.
The Red Sox will surely have been eliminated from playoff consideration by the time the teams play the final three games of the season at Fenway Park on September 27-29.
The Orioles are 49-101. A split of the final 12 games would give them a record of 55-107, an improvement of eight games from the 2018 season when they lost 115.
Rookie of the year voting: Oriole fans are familiar with Houston Astros outfielder Yordan Alvarez, who hit four home runs against the Orioles this season. He hit three in the Astros’ 23-2 rout of the Orioles on August 10.
Overall, Alvarez is hitting .315 in 77 games with 25 home runs and 75 RBIs. He has a 1.084 OPS, and is the favorite for the American League Rookie of the Year.
Tampa Bay second baseman Brandon Lowe and Toronto third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. have had strong seasons, but both are ending 2019 on the injured list.
Orioles left-hander John Means also should get support. After allowing all five runs in the Orioles’ loss on Monday, Means has a 3.65 and a 10-11 record.
Grading on a curve, Means has had an outstanding season for a pitcher who didn’t expect to make the team and for a club that has lost 101 games.
It’s been 30 years since an Orioles reliever Gregg Olson won the American League’s Rookie of the Year.
Mancini’s homer tear: Trey Mancini hit his third home run in four games this weekend. Mancini is a streaky hitter, and had just one home run in his past 26 games before the weekend.
Mancini, who is likely to be named the Most Valuable Oriole, has 33 home runs.
Hall of Famer Eddie Murray, who had 504 career home runs, hit as many as 33 only once in his career.
Renato Nunez, who had been in a tight race with Mancini for the home run lead, is also streaky. He has 29 homers but just one in his last 21 games, and appears to be pressing.
If Nunez hits another homer, it will be the fourth time in the last five seasons that the Orioles have had multiple players with 30 or more home runs.