Jorge López has usually given the Orioles five solid innings before he turns the ball over to the bullpen.
The right-hander was solid against a tough Rays lineup Aug. 8, allowing two runs and four hits with two walks and five strikeouts in six innings before the bullpen imploded. Prior to that, Lopez picked up a win against the Yankees Aug. 2, allowing just one run in six innings of work.
After struggling to go deep into games earlier in the season, López has thrown six or more innings five times in his past 14 starts.
“It was good progress,” López said after the Aug. 2 outing. “I feel good … just getting better through the games. I felt like I was aggressive. I just never gave up. And the guys did everything for me.”
The Orioles are hopeful López has turned the corner.
López struggled with a 7.94 ERA and 2.03 WHIP in 11.1 innings during his first three starts after the All-Star break. However, he’s pitched much better in his last two starts, allowing three runs in 12 innings.
“Just really proud of him,” manager Brandon Hyde said after the recent start against the Yankees. “Guy’s been dealing with a ton. You saw it there in the fifth, a couple walks, could have unraveled on him. He really composed himself. Saw him take a couple deep breaths on the mound. It was just a really nice piece of pitching. And then going back out there for the sixth and completing the sixth inning, also.”
López lowered his ERA from 6.19 on July 28 to 5.75.
He’s pitched well enough to earn an opportunity to compete for a starting job in 2022. At age 28, he can still play a role in the Orioles’ rebuilding program.
“I just trust the process,” López said after the Aug. 8 outing. “I just tried to focus better and tried to get my mindset different, just try to be the best I can out there. All my pitches, my curveball, were really good. I just need to keep attacking guys.”
Bullpen Struggles … Mightily
Injuries to Tanner Scott, Hunter Harvey and Tyler Wells have left the Orioles’ bullpen shorthanded.
However, the relievers offered an almost inexplicable performance in a three-game sweep against the Rays.
The Orioles bullpen allowed 22 runs in 10 innings during the three games. The eighth inning was particularly tough. They allowed 16 runs in that frame.
“The whole room in there is disappointed, discouraged just because we are so inconsistent in our bullpen,” Hyde said. “It’s just disappointing. Sometimes our guys are pretty good out there, and sometimes we walk a lot of people. Just can’t be afraid of the strike zone. You’ve got to be able to attack hitters. For three years now, sometimes our guys do it, and sometimes they don’t. And that’s why we have a ton of losses like this.”
Paul Fry was expected to be one of the Orioles’ most valuable trade chips at the deadline, but the team held onto him. He didn’t retire any of his three batters Aug. 6 and loaded the bases again two days later, which led to key runs for the Rays Aug. 8.
The usually dependable Cole Sulser and Dillon Tate have also struggled to get outs.
Hyde has given opportunities to several pitchers this year — Mac Sceroler, Travis Lakins Sr., Jay Flaa, Mickey Jannis, Shaun Anderson, Dusten Knight, Marcos Diplán, Conner Greene, Konner Wade, Brandon Waddell and Isaac Mattson, for example — and nothing has worked.
The Orioles allowed at least 10 runs in four consecutive games before a 9-6 loss Aug. 8, the longest streak since the team moved to Baltimore from St. Louis in 1954. Orioles relievers allowed 36 earned runs in their past 19.2 innings, costing the team games.
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