Observations from and analysis of the Orioles’ season-opening series loss to the Twins
Game 1: 3-2 11-inning win on Thursday afternoon (March 29)
Game 2: 6-2 loss on Saturday night (March 31)
Game 3: 7-0 loss on Sunday afternoon (April 1)
1. This was far from the biggest item in the series, but the Twins’ complaining about Chance Sisco’s bunt single in the bottom of the ninth of the Orioles’ 7-0 loss on Sunday afternoon was absurd. There’s an “unwritten” rule in baseball that you don’t bunt to break-up a no-hitter. That’s one thing, even though I think that’s ridiculous. Sisco, while being shifted on, astutely bunted for a single with Jose Berrios working on a one-hit shutout. And multiple Twins complained about this after the game.
Brian Dozier: “Obviously, we’re not a fan of it. He’s a young kid. I could’ve said something at second base but they have tremendous veteran leadership over there. I’m sure they’ll address that. It’s all about learning. You learn up here.”
Eddie Rosario: “Nobody liked that. No, no, no. That’s not a good play.”
Huh? Sisco bunted for a hit with his team down 7-0 and needing base runners and runs. The Orioles’ offense was putrid over the last two games. He was being shifted on. Sisco did exactly what he should have done. Who made the Twins the arbiters of baseball behavior? This team made the playoffs last season for the first time in seven seasons and all of a sudden thinks that it’s the moral compass of MLB. Calm down.
2. That said, man was the Orioles’ offense terrible in this series.
The O’s scored five runs and batted .117 for the series, striking out 30 times. The O’s got no-hit over the first 7 2/3 innings of the 6-2 loss to the Twins on Saturday night. The O’s got shutout by Jose Berrios in the 7-0 loss to the Twins on Sunday afternoon.
The 3-2 11-inning Opening Day win included a Caleb Joseph first-pitch two-out two-run triple in the bottom of the seventh and an Adam Jones first-pitch walk-off homer off Fernando Rodney to begin the bottom of the 11th. Tim Beckham did have a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth on Saturday night. That was about it for big hits in this series.
A bright spot was working 12 walks over the first two games, including seven walks on Saturday night. Manny Machado had three walks in that game.
3. I liked that Buck Showalter batted Chris Davis in the no. 1 spot in each game in this series, as he has never gotten enough credit for his improved walk rates in recent years. But there’s not getting around that Davis struggled in this series: 0-for-12 with two walks. He did only strike out once.
4. The Orioles’ starting pitching got off to a great start but then struggled horribly.
Dylan Bundy was outstanding in the 3-2 11-inning Opening Day win on Thursday afternoon. King Kong Bundy tossed seven scoreless innings with seven strikeouts versus five singles and a walk on 88 pitches.
Andrew Cashner was a huge disappointment in his Orioles debut in the 6-2 loss to the Twins on Saturday night. It wasn’t just that he gave up five runs (four earned) in five innings. It was how. A guy known for not giving up home runs gave up three solo homers to go with two doubles, a single and two walks. And, interestingly, Cashner, who also is known for not striking guys out (among all starting pitchers who threw at least 162 innings last season, he ranked dead last – no. 56 out of 56 – in strikeouts per nine innings at 4.64), actually had five strikeouts in his five innings.
And then came Kevin Gausman in the 7-0 loss to the Twins on Sunday afternoon: six runs in four innings on seven hits, including three homers and two doubles, two walks and two wild pitches. He gave up four runs in the top of the first. Gausman was atrocious over the first three and-a-half months of last season. That is precisely the Gausman that we saw on Sunday afternoon.
5. All things considered, the Orioles’ bullpen was pretty good in this series: four earned runs in 13 innings with a 1.08 WHIP.
But life without Zach Britton, who’s recovering from a ruptured right Achilles suffered in December, did get off to a bad start in the 3-2 11-inning Opening Day win on Thursday afternoon. Brad Brach gave up two runs in the top of the ninth, blowing a save and a 2-0 lead. He actually got the Twins’ most dangerous hitter, Miguel Sano, to strike out to begin the inning. But then the problems began: one-out single by Eddie Rosario, passed ball by Caleb Joseph, four-pitch walk to Logan Morrison, two-out walk to Max Kepler (who worked an 11-pitch plate appearance) and then a two-out two-run game-tying single to Robbie Grossman. The rest of the bullpen was great, as Darren O’Day, Mychal Givens and Richard Bleier combined for 3 1/3 scoreless innings. But boy was this a bad start for Brach if in fact he is the Orioles’ closer (Buck Showalter won’t say), as Brach was not as good last season as he was in 2016.
6. Craig Gentry started in right field for the O’s in their 3-2 11-inning Opening Day win on Thursday afternoon and made the play of the game: a leaping back-handed home-run-robbing catch of an Eddie Rosario fly ball to begin the top of the second. Outfield defense has been a big problem for the O’s in recent years. Not so on that play.
7. Speaking of Orioles defense, did you notice what happened in the top of the third on Thursday? Tim Beckham, the Orioles’ new starting third baseman off having switched positions with now-shortstop Manny Machado, couldn’t handle a two-out Brian Dozier grounder, as the ball defelcted off Beckham’s glove for a single that put runners on first and second. Joe Mauer grounded out to Machado to end the inning on the next pitch and thus no damage was done, but that botched grounder by Beckham is precisely the kind of play that Machado would have made and is part of the reality of the O’s having given in to Machado’s wish to move from third base to shortstop. Beckham, to his credit, did initiate a key double play off a Miguel Sano grounder in the top of the sixth.