Bright Spots Few And Far Between Recently For Orioles’ Struggling Pitching Staff

Orioles starting pitchers with the exception of John Means have struggled to go deep into games.

This has put added pressure on the bullpen, which has completely imploded.

The result?

The Orioles have lost seven games in a row and have been outscored, 62-33, during that stretch. They’ve also lost 14 of their last 16 games.

“It’s been a couple of tough years and we’re not winning these games here these last couple weeks and that’s tough,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “It’s tough to lose in the big leagues and you want guys to feel success.”

Means pitched well enough to get the Orioles out of their skid May 24 against the Minnesota Twins, allowing two runs and five hits in seven innings. But the bullpen — consisting of Tanner Scott, Cesar Valdez and Tyler Wells — faltered again in the 8-3 loss.

“Two solo homers in seven innings? He was awesome,” Hyde said of Means. “You win those games when he pitches like that and we didn’t.”

Means (4-0, 1.79 ERA) has been the lone bright spot recently.

On May 22, rookie Bruce Zimmermann (2-3, 5.59 ERA) was staked to leads of 5-0 and 6-1 against the Washington Nationals. He allowed a grand slam to Josh Harrison in the third inning, and the Nationals eventually won, 12-9.

Though Zimmermann retired the side in order in the first inning, he allowed seven hits and five runs in his three innings of work. After the game, Zimmermann said he should have covered first sooner on the back end of a potential double-play ball in the second inning and didn’t like the pitch he threw to Harrison in the third.

“The third inning I thought I got back to doing what I was doing in the first inning,” Zimmermann said. “Just kind of got unlucky with some soft contact there the first couple of guys. Kind of beared down. I can’t have that two-out walk to [Kyle] Schwarber, even though he’s a tough at-bat. Have to go after him, make it a little competitive there 3-2.

“Really, the only thing that I want to have back is probably that pitch to Harrison. I thought I did a good job of bearing back down in that inning and was just a pitch away from getting out of it, and then left it up in the zone.”

The following day, Matt Harvey (3-5, 6.31 ERA) lost his fourth straight game, allowing six runs and nine hits in just 4.2 innings. The Nationals completed the three-game sweep with a 6-5 victory. Harvey had started the season effectively, but he hasn’t completed five innings and has allowed 18 earned runs and 24 hits in the last three starts.

“Obviously, I’m still not happy,” Harvey said. “In my mind, a starter goes six, seven innings, especially with how we’ve been going the last week, two weeks. Our bullpen is being used way too early and way too often and we as a whole have to be better at that. I’m the first one to blame on all those issues. I just have to keep going out and being better and figure out a way to get six, seven innings and save our bullpen.”

Jorge López (1-5, 6.00 ERA) has pitched better of late but he has still struggled to pitch deep into games. He allowed two runs and seven hits with three walks and eight strikeouts in five innings in a 4-2 loss to the Nationals May 22. Lopez has pitched past the fifth inning in just one of his nine starts.

Dean Kremer is also experiencing some growing pains. The 25-year-old allowed four runs in three innings in a 10-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on May 20. He is 0-4 with a 6.35 ERA.

“When it’s going well, I stay aggressive regardless of who’s on base or what happens on the pitch before, and then sometimes I can let it snowball and it doesn’t work up here,” Kremer said. “Things happen really quick here.”

The Orioles don’t have many options in the minors with their starting pitching. Zac Lowther and Alexander Wells don’t appear ready to take the ball, and Keegan Akin is a valuable part of the bullpen with long relief.

Other intriguing options include Spenser Watkins, who has pitched well for Norfolk, or perhaps DL Hall, who has been lights out for Double-A Bowie.

Right now, the Orioles are just trying to win a game.

“We threw the ball really good out of the bullpen the first month of the year,” Hyde said. “Hopefully, these guys can turn it around and get some outs like they were the first month of the year. But right now, it’s very, very challenging.”

Photo Credit: Kenya Allen/PressBox

Todd Karpovich

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