BALTIMORE—After a spate of Covid-19 forced the Miami Marlins to wait eight days to play a game, the Orioles might have thought the patchwork team that was hastily assembled wouldn’t present much of a challenge.
However, pitching can be the great equalizer, and the Marlins’ pitchers were sharp and dominant in a 4-0 victory over the Orioles Tuesday night in a game that was delayed 40 minutes so Major League Baseball could make certain the test results for the new Marlins were negative.
Much of the Marlins’ team that last played on July 26 is in quarantine after positive tests for the coronavirus. Twenty-one members of the Marlins’ traveling party tested positive, and Miami put 17 players on the injured list.
Marlins starter Pablo Lopez pitched five scoreless innings, striking out seven. He allowed two hits, both to Austin Hays, who had been 0-for-15. The loss ended a three-game winning streak for the Orioles, who are 5-4.
“We just didn’t swing the bat very well,” said Orioles manager Brandon Hyde, who got a strong start from John Means. “Didn’t hit very many balls hard. We’d been taking really good at-bats off some good pitching this season, and tonight, just didn’t happen for us offensively.”
An Orioles’ bullpen that had been impressive in a three-game sweep of Tampa Bay faltered. Travis Lakins allowed two runs in the sixth, one of them unearned. Renato Nuñez, playing third base because Rio Ruiz has shoulder inflammation, booted a grounder by Logan Forsythe for the second run.
Thomas Eshelman allowed a long home run to Jesus Aguilar in the eighth, his third. Miami is 3-1. The Marlins won two of three in their opening series against the Phillies before Covid-19 halted their season.
James Hoyt gave up a two-out double to Anthony Santander in the sixth. That was the only hit allowed by Miami’s bullpen.
“Never got a rally going,” Hyde said. “[Lopez] didn’t have to pitch with traffic. The bullpen guys didn’t have to pitch with traffic. We didn’t put any pressure on them defensively, so give their pitchers credit for pitching us tough. Wasn’t our night offensively.”
Outfielder DJ Stewart struck out twice and walked. He’s hitless in 14 at-bats this season.
“I think he’s pressing,” Hyde said. “I think he’s trying bit a little too hard. It seems like every swing he’s trying to drive the baseball on top of the warehouse.”
Hays also appeared to be pressing.
“Sometimes you find the barrel, and the ball doesn’t find a hole,” Hays said. “Tonight, the first couple of balls I didn’t really hit all that well, but they found some grass and I was able to get on base a couple of times.”
Hays has been aggressive at the plate.
“I liked most of my at-bats,” he said. “There were a few at-bats that with two strikes, I expanded the zone a little bit. I was missing some good pitches to hit in the middle of the count and early part of the count.
“When I’m at my best, and the numbers are there, I usually don’t miss those pitches or foul those pitches off. I’m getting myself in a lot of two-strike counts that usually I’m not. If I just continue to have good at-bats and continue to stay balanced at the plate, eventually I’ll stop missing those pitches and the numbers will start to show up.”
Means’ night: In his second start of the season, Means allowed just one run, on Francisco Cervelli’s two-out home run in the fifth. He gave up two hits.
Hyde removed Means immediately after the home runs. He threw 72 pitches, a jump from the 51 he threw against the New York Yankees in his season debut on July 30th. Means was scheduled to be the Orioles’ Opening Day starter but was held back because of arm fatigue.
Means allowed five first-inning runs to the Yankees — including a grand slam by Luke Voit — and pitched 2 1/3 innings, the shortest start of his career.
After the Marlins’ Jon Berti singled in the first, Means retired 13 straight until Cervelli’s home run. He struck out four without walking a batter.
“Both starts I gave up two hits, one single and one’s a homer,” Means said. “Both starts, I think I had a pretty good fastball for the most part, and I threw one bad pitch. The same sort of outcome except this was one run, and the last one was five. I did feel better this start, but it was the changeup that made the difference.
“I’ve got to limit that home run to beat me in the game. That gives a team so much momentum when you give up home runs, and they knock me out of the game. They start to get confidence, and I can’t let that happen.”
Bleier returns: Richard Bleier, who was traded from the Orioles to the Miami Marlins after Friday night’s game, pitched a perfect seventh inning in his debut for Miami. He threw 10 pitches in striking out Dwight Smith Jr. and retiring Hays and Chris Davis on groundouts.
“Trades happen,” Hyde said. “Part of the game. Part of this business. Threw the ball well tonight.”
Doubleheader update: The Orioles will start Alex Cobb in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader against Elieser Hernandez. First pitch is set for 5:05 p.m.
Asher Wojciehchowski will start the second game for the Orioles. Miami, which will serve as the home team for the second game, hasn’t announced its starter.
Both games will be seven innings based on the new rule for the 60-game 2020 season.
Roster size update: According to published reports, Major League Baseball will go through with its plan to reduce roster sizes from 30 to 28 on Thursday.
However, instead of reducing the roster size to 26 on August 20th, they’ll keep it at 28 for the remainder of the season. Taxi squads for road games, which had been three players, will increase to five.
Injury update: Ruiz missed his second game with shoulder inflammation … Shortstop José Iglesias remains out with a left quad injury. He did bat on Saturday and Sunday but hasn’t started since July 29 … Hyde said that right-hander Dillon Tate, who’s at the Bowie alternate site, is coming back from an elbow injury. “Dillon Tate is throwing,” Hyde said. “He’s progressing. I would say, a couple of week or less, if everything works out, if everything goes smoothly in his rehab.”