The Orioles can try to take some positives from Wednesday’s ninth straight loss. They can look at Jorge López’s deepest start of the season or a ninth-inning rally that had the tying run at second base.
In the end, it was just another loss, 3-2 to the Minnesota Twins at Target Field. Along with those positives, there were many more negatives. Not only is their ninth straight loss their longest skid since a 10-game slide from June 12-21, 2019, but it’s their 15th straight loss to the Twins.
Since John Means threw his no-hitter in Seattle exactly three weeks ago, the Orioles (17-32) have lost 16 of 18.
Trey Mancini had one of three Orioles’ hits in the first inning against Michael Piñeda (3-2), his 11th home run of the year. Cedric Mullins led off with a single, but was thrown out stealing, and Anthony Santander doubled after Mancini’s home run.
The Orioles didn’t have another hit until the ninth, when Mancini and Maikel Franco doubled.
López (1-6) had a 1-0 lead and a two-hit shutout heading into the sixth. In previous starts, the fifth inning had been his undoing, but that wasn’t the case against Minnesota (20-29).
Willans Astudillo led off with a single but was erased on a double play by Rob Refsnyder. Andrelton Simmons grounded out, and it was on to the sixth. ‘
Max Kepler led off the sixth with a single, moved to second on an infield out by Jorge Polanco. Nelson Cruz walked, and Miguel Sanó hit a three-run home run and, suddenly, the Orioles trailed, 3-1.
“Every mistake we make, we have to pay for it,” López said. “That’s what I felt.”
López allowed three runs on four hits in six innings, walking four and striking out three.
“Disappointing on that pitch, but six really good innings,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Was in control, was in command. Pitch count was down. Velo stayed there throughout his outing. He pitched really, really well. Made that one bad pitch.”
Piñeda gave up a run on three hits, walking two and striking out eight. The Orioles didn’t have a hit against Tyler Duffey in the seventh or Caleb Thielbar in the eighth.
“We had a tough time getting any offense going,” Hyde said. “Once again we battled back with the tying run on base, but didn’t have a whole lot going on from [innings] two through eight.”
Mancini began the ninth with a double, the Orioles’ first hit since the first. Santander grounded out to third, and DJ Stewart lined out to left. Franco doubled against Hansel Robles, scoring Mancini, and Stevie Wilkerson grounded out to end the game.
Robles was credited with his third save.
Hyde believes the Orioles are still in a position to succeed.
“I sense some frustration,” he said. “It doesn’t feel good. There’s no way around it. This doesn’t feel good. We’re in most of these games, too. We’re just having a tough time getting on the right end of it.”
Elias addresses woes: Before the game, Orioles executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias acknowledged the team’s losing streak.
“It’s been tough on everyone involved,” Elias said. “These struggles happen in baseball. In particular, they happen with young teams, a young roster. These stretches can be harder when you have a group of young players, as we do.”
Elias, who assumed his job in November 2018, said he knew turning around the franchise’s fortunes was not going to be easy.
“It was a big task,” he said. “It is a big task. It remains a very difficult task and these processes are difficult. They don’t go perfectly. They don’t go smoothly. They require a lot of effort and endurance through tough stretches like this.
“This wave of young players right now that are undergoing some struggles in what I call their sophomore seasons are a very talented group. I don’t think this is unexpected. Sophomore slumps are real. This is a generation of players that has undergone probably the strangest and most difficult introduction to the major leagues possible. A lot of these guys totally skipped Triple-A because of the pandemic, working at alternate sites, dropped into the American League East, had a weird calendar last year, a weird calendar this year.
“You look at our young pitchers who have undergone some struggles this year, [Dean] Kremer, [Bruce] Zimmermann, [Keegan] Akin. The ERAs are a little high, but the strikeout/walk numbers remain positive. Those are indicative of future results. We see a lot of talent there. This is a group of players that we believe in. I know that things will improve and get back in a positive direction on the field at some point.
“We are remaining on target for what we’re trying to do, which is build for a sustainable, competitive, playoff-caliber future for this organization for a long time so that we do not have to undergo a process this traumatic ever again.”
Notes: The 15th straight loss to the Twins equals the third-longest streak to one club in franchise history. From July 26, 1987-April 11, 1989, the Orioles dropped 15 consecutive games to Kansas City. … The Orioles have scored first in their last five games. … They’ve lost eight straight road games for the first time since August 18-September 3, 2018. … The Orioles play four games at Chicago, beginning Thursday at 8 p.m. Bruce Zimmermann (2-3, 5.59 ERA) will face Dylan Cease (2-1, 3.18).