Barring the changeup he left atop the strike zone to begin the seventh inning, Orioles left-hander Bruce Zimmermann hadn’t missed many spots Saturday against the Detroit Tigers. That’s the way he’s been all season, giving the Orioles a chance every time he takes the mound.
He did so again Saturday, allowing two earned runs in his six-plus innings. But as the Orioles lineup continued an anemic stretch in the first two games of this series in Detroit, the chance fell by the wayside, handing Zimmermann a loss when he supplied an outing worthy of more.
The 3-0 defeat for the Orioles secures a series loss, their offense a whisper that couldn’t keep up with the Tigers, even though Detroit’s batters hardly produced a roar.
Three times an Orioles (14-20) batter reached base with one out or fewer in the third, fourth and fifth innings after walks from Anthony Bemboom and Trey Mancini as well as a single from Tyler Nevin, Baltimore’s first of the day. Each time, those runners were wiped out by double plays. And when Mancini singled to lead off the ninth, a sharply hit grounder from Anthony Santander (106.3 mph) turned into a fourth.
Baltimore couldn’t push a runner into scoring position until the seventh inning, when a grounder from Ramón Urías ate up third baseman Jeimer Candelario and wound up in shallow left field for a double. But even then, a pop up by Rougned Odor and a Nevin strikeout ended that threat.
It continued a dismal offensive display from Friday night, when the Orioles hit 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded 14 runners in a 4-2 loss. On Saturday, there were fewer runners to strand, even with an early departure for right-hander Michael Pineda.
After a rocket from Urías ricocheted off Pineda’s forearm, the 33-year-old starter exited just one out into the second inning with a right hand contusion. That set up an unexpected bullpen day for the Tigers, but the following pitchers blew through the Baltimore order — five relievers covered the remaining 7 2/3 innings, allowing just four hits.
Some of the misfortune came down to ill luck. Twice Mancini rocked balls to deep right field, leaving his bat at over 100 mph with expected batting averages at or above .770. Both were caught just shy of the fence. Eight of the top 12 hardest hit balls were from Baltimore batters, per Statcast, yet seven of those resulted in outs.
There’s another side of it, though, that revolves around the absences of injured starters Ryan Mountcastle and Austin Hays. Without those two bats in the middle of the lineup, the Orioles lack much of their firepower, something that had begun to show this month after an April in which Baltimore plated 62 runs, the second fewest in the majors.
The injuries to Hays and Mountcastle propelled Urías into the cleanup hole for the first time in his career, perhaps the most obvious sign that there were few places for manager Brandon Hyde to turn. And it led to a poor offensive showing, lacking any support for another serviceable start from Zimmermann.
Around the horn
>> After throwing two scoreless innings and recording two strikeouts in his major league debut Friday, right-hander Denyi Reyes was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk. In his place, the Orioles recalled outfielder Ryan McKenna, adding another bat to the bench to cover for the absences of Hays and Mountcastle.
>> Left-hander Paul Fry, who was optioned to Triple-A Norfolk earlier this week, was designated for assignment Saturday, removing him from the 40-man roster. Baltimore claimed right-hander Beau Sulser off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates and optioned Sulser — the brother of former Oriole Cole Sulser — to Triple-A.
This story will be updated.
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