WASHINGTON—The Orioles could blame their 11th loss in 13 games on a baserunning mistake. They could attribute it to the fifth-inning struggles of starter Jorge López, or they could look at their flailing offense. That’s probably where they should start.
In the last two games, the Orioles have been outhit, 30-6. They didn’t score on Friday night until shortstop Freddy Galvis hit a two-run home run with two outs in the ninth, which is when they doubled their hit total from two to four.
By then, the Washington Nationals led by four and the 4-2 final before 14,369 at Nationals Park was deceptively close.
Before the game began, Oriole fans delivered a strong “O” during the national anthem. Once the game began, though, Stephen Strasburg, pitching for the first time since April 13th, silenced the fans and the Oriole bats.
Strasburg allowed only a second-inning single to rightfielder Anthony Santander in 5 1/3 scoreless innings, though he walked four.
López nearly matched Strasburg (1-1), finishing with eight strikeouts. He had two outs in the fifth before the Nationals (18-23) produced four consecutive hits and scored two runs. López has pitched effectively into the fifth in eight of his nine starts but has given up as many runs as he has recorded outs, 13, in that inning for a 27.00 ERA.
“As a pitcher, you just want to go as far as you can,” López said.
The Orioles (17-27) had a chance to score in the fifth when Strasburg walked Galvis to lead off the inning and catcher Chance Sisco with two outs. Since the designated hitter isn’t used in National League parks, López batted, though manager Brandon Hyde had Ryan Mountcastle and DJ Stewart available to pinch-hit.
“Not much of a decision the way our bullpen was tonight,” Hyde said. After a five-out start from Matt Harvey on Tuesday and just three innings from Dean Kremer on Thursday, the Orioles’ bullpen was exhausted.
“He’s got four shutout innings,” Hyde said. “I know he’s had trouble in the middle part of the game. I’m trying to push him there. We didn’t have many innings from the bullpen tonight. He needed to go back out.”
López allowed two runs on seven hits in five innings.
“I thought he had really good stuff in the fifth. I wanted him to go back out for the sixth,” Hyde said. “I thought the pitch selection was questionable.
“He gave up two runs in five innings to the Washington Nationals. He kept us in the game. We just didn’t score.”
Tyler Wells allowed a run in two innings, and Shawn Armstrong a run in the eighth.
Trailing 2-0 in the sixth, Austin Hays walked against Strasburg, and he was replaced by Kyle Finnegan, who allowed a double to right by Trey Mancini.
Juan Soto’s throw overshot second baseman Josh Harrison, and Hays, who was given the stop sign by third base coach Tony Mansolino, decided to try to score.
First baseman Josh Bell quickly retrieved the ball, threw home, and Hays was out.
“Initially I did not see Bell, so when I saw the ball go over the cutoff guy’s head, it looked like it was rolling through the infield,” Hays said. “That was my initial read, so I took off to score, thinking that was a loose ball. I was about halfway down the line when I saw Bell field it, and I realized it was a bad read at that point.
“That was a judgment call on my part, and obviously we’ve got Santander coming up. We would have had runners on second and third, and that’s our big power guy in the lineup. I wish I could have that one back, but it’s a bad initial read.”
Santander, who went 1-for-4 in his first game since April 20th, struck out to end the sixth. He’d missed more than a month because of a sprained left ankle.
After Wells allowed a run in the sixth on Soto’s RBI single, the Orioles trailed, 3-0.
Wander Suero and Daniel Hudson retired the Orioles quickly in the seventh and eighth, and Armstrong gave up an RBI single to Bell in the bottom of the eighth. Bell had three hits.
The Orioles trailed, 4-0, heading to the ninth. Hays led off with a fly to center. Mancini doubled and, after Santander grounded to third, Galvis hit his sixth home run of the season.
“It’s really challenging,” Hyde said. “We didn’t score until the ninth.”