CINCINNATI — Late game heroics have become commonplace for the Orioles this season. But is it getting to a point where they’re being relied upon too heavily?
That was the sense in the visitors’ clubhouse following the team’s 8-2 loss to the Reds Saturday night at Great American Ball Park. With nearly half of their 51 victories including a comeback, the group is searching for consistency on both ends.
As an offense, the O’s entered the game batting just .233 on the road. And while they were able to find a few holes in the first two innings, their bats went silent for the final seven innings — tallying just one hit over that span.
“We’ve really depended on situational hitting lately,” said first baseman Trey Mancini, who finished the night 1-for-4. “We’ve kind of had a flare for the dramatic the last few weeks coming up in big spots, but at the same time, it would be nice to have some games where we have a more comfortable lead, and maybe put up some more runs early … and consistently put up the runs.”
The O’s starting rotation entered Saturday with a road ERA of 5.04, nearly a run and a half higher than the bullpen’s 3.69 mark.
“Our bullpen has been our anchor, and our starting staff has done a great job, but the bullpen has been winning a lot of games for us,” Mancini added. “As an offense moving forward, it would be nice to put up some more runs and give them a little bit more rest than they’ve had.”
And in games like Saturday, where starting pitcher Dean Kremer lasted just 4 1/3 innings, allowing six runs and 10 hits, the bullpen was once again given a tall task. With Kremer’s early departure, the outing marked 13 contests since an Orioles starter pitched six innings.
With Kremer out of the game in the fifth, this time Orioles manager Brandon Hyde looked to rookie right-hander Beau Sulser, who dealt the final 3 2/3 innings and saved the rest of the bullpen ahead of Sunday’s rubber match. Sulser allowed a home run to end the fifth and an RBI single with no outs in the sixth but recorded his final nine outs without allowing a hit.
“The MVP tonight was Beau Sulser. That was huge for us,” Hyde said. “[He] stretched way longer than we wanted to, however he gave a bunch of guys a much needed night off, which hopefully is good for us down the road and good for us tomorrow. We were stretched really thin from the standpoint of our starters not going real deep in games and [our relievers] pitching so much.”
With Tyler Wells (Grade one oblique strain) the most recent starting pitcher placed on the injured list, the pressure for the remaining group has been kicked up a notch. And July hasn’t been too friendly to Kremer.
After a winless 2021 season with an ERA of 7.55 in his 13 starts, Kremer bounced back during the first half of the season, putting together a scoreless stretch of 22 2/3 innings at one point. The last few weeks have gone much differently, however, as he has posted a 6.94 ERA in his five starts during July.
“I just thought he was a little off from the start for me. I just thought the tempo didn’t feel real comfortable,” Hyde said. Then he started to get a little bit better … then he just left a bad pitch to [Jonathan] India [that was hit for a home run]. It was kind of a struggle for him tonight.”
“All you can do is flush it,” Kremer said. “If you let it get to you, it’s just going to snowball.”