Last August 19th, Jorge López was pulled from the Orioles’ game at Tampa Bay after two innings. He’d thrown only 48 pitches, but he’d allowed four runs on four hits and two walks in a game they’d eventually lose, 7-2.
Fans watching the game on television could see manager Brandon Hyde talking with López, trying to figure out what was wrong. The loss gave López a 3-14 record and a 6.35 ERA.
With six weeks left in the season and the Orioles needing starting pitchers, it was a bold move to drop López from the starting rotation. If Hyde kept starting him, López could have lost 20 games, something no manager wants to see.
Hyde decided the way to use López was in the bullpen. At first, López was put into games the Orioles were trailing or had a comfortable lead. When those went well, Hyde began putting him into higher-leverage situations and, had he not suffered a sprained ankle covering first base on September 9th, Hyde would have used him in crucial spots in the final weeks of the season.
This year, there haven’t been many games to save, but on Wednesday, the Orioles had a 1-0 lead after five innings, and starter Jordan Lyles (1-1) yielded to the bullpen.
Hyde’s relievers, who now have a 2.47 ERA, threw four scoreless innings. Paul Fry and Dillon Tate each threw spotless innings. After Bryan Baker allowed two hits while striking out one batter, and with the tying run standing at third, López retired all five Oakland hitters, striking out three to preserve the Orioles’ fourth win of the season against eight losses. It also was their first victory on the road.
With John Means on the 60-day injured list because of a left elbow sprain, and Lyles the most experienced starter on hand, the bullpen must carry a heavy load.
López saved his second game. Three of the Orioles’ four wins have come on shutouts. Last season, they had just five shutouts. It was their first 1-0 win since July 14, 2018.
The Orioles’ offense again provided little help. They had only five hits and scored their run on a grounder hit by Kelvin Gutiérrez that shortstop Elvis Andrus couldn’t field that allowed Ryan McKenna, who had doubled, to score.
It’s hard for a closer to get regular work on a team that’s not winning many games, and that will be a challenge for Hyde to keep López sharp.
Until May 2nd, the Orioles will be able to keep two extra pitchers on their staff. When rosters are reduced from 28 to 26, they’ll be limited to 15 pitchers. By then, starters might be able to regularly go into the sixth and seventh innings.
Lyles, who prides himself on going deep into games, threw 89 pitchers through five.
Offensive woes: The Orioles failed for the second straight game to produce with runners in scoring position. They were again 0-for-6, and are 1-for-19 in the series, scoring a single run in each game.
Gutiérrez’s ball was originally scored a hit, but was changed to an error.
Sad sight: Wednesday’s attendance was just 2,703. That was the smallest crowd, excluding Covid years, since September 9th, 1980 when Oakland drew only 2,443 in a game against Texas.
The Athletics have begun another rebuild, trading off players, and they’ve raised ticket prices.
For years, they’ve tried to find a new home in Oakland and have settled on a site on the Oakland waterfront, near downtown, but political infighting has prevented the project from proceeding. Commissioner Rob Manfred has given the team permission to explore other cities, and they’re considering Las Vegas if a new home in Oakland can’t be found.
The Raiders have left Oakland for Las Vegas, and the Golden State Warriors, who played in the arena adjacent to the Coliseum, have moved across the bay to San Francisco.
With all the great Athletics, Raiders and Warriors teams over the years, it would be a shame if Oakland was left without a team.
The Coliseum, which has had countless names over the years, is the worst stadium in baseball. The best part of attending games there is that food trucks line up outside and fans can choose from a variety of cuisines.
Notes: Catcher Robinson Chirinos left the game when he was hit by a pitch in the second innings, suffering a facial bruise. He was replaced by Anthony Bemboom. … The game started 3 ½ hours earlier than originally scheduled because unfavorable weather was forecast in Oakland. … The Orioles conclude their series with the Athletics on Thursday at 3:37 p.m., with Tyler Wells (0-1, 6.35) scheduled to face Paul Blackburn (1-0, 1.80).
Minor league update: Grayson Rodriguez allowed one hit in 5 1/3 innings, striking out eight, as Triple-A Norfolk beat Durham, 3-0. Rodriguez (2-0) walked one and threw 75 pitches. Nick Vespi, Tim Naughton, Matt Vogel and Cole Uvila combined to throw 3 2/3 scoreless innings, giving up just one hit.
Garrett Stallings and Ryan Watson combined on a one-hitter as Double-A Bowie beat Akron, 5-0. Stallings (1-0) gave up one hit in five innings, striking out five and walking three. Watson threw four spotless innings. Catcher Cody Roberts drove in two runs.
Third baseman Coby Mayo drove in three and hit a two-run home run as High-A Aberdeen beat Greensboro, 5-4. Ignacio Feliz (1-0) struck out 10, allowing a run on a hit in four innings.
Low-A Delmarva allowed a 10-run sixth inning in its 17-3 loss to Myrtle Beach. Eduard Monroy allowed eight runs, five earned, while retiring just one batter. Shortstop Darell Hernaiz hit two home runs for the Shorebirds.