The Orioles brought the inevitable to reality on Friday, officially getting eliminated from playoff contention with a 7-1 loss to the Rays. All things considered, the news probably isn’t hitting the clubhouse too hard. For one thing, the players will get a much-needed break away from this hellish season once September ends. But another reason why this is probably low on the pecking order of concerns for folks in this organization is because of stuff preceding and surrounding the loss itself.
Let’s start with what happened even before this fate-sealing defeat. Baltimore executives have begun to clean house and reportedly fired 11 members of baseball operations and scouting departments. General manager Mike Elias told MLB.com that the decision was made “to adapt to the competitive environment we’re in,” and added this astute observation: “Sometimes to make changes, you have to make changes.” It was the first major personnel shakeup Elias had made since joining the team last November from Houston.
Then there’s the loss itself. The 7-1 gut-punch was the Orioles’ 12th straight loss to an AL East opponent. Throughout this losing streak, Baltimore has been outscored 103-50, and recently-acquired pitcher Ty Blach—who threw in three of those outings against the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays—saw his ERA balloon to 12.15 in his short tenure with the O’s. Nathan Ruiz of the Baltimore Sun then offered this bleak reminder of how much better the rest of the division currently is:
The Yankees have shown all year that, even with players on the injured list whose collective salary is higher than the Orioles’ total payroll, they are a World Series contender. The Red Sox actually won the title last year and remain stocked with young talent. The Rays, despite their own payroll beneath that of the injured Yankees, have continually pumped out postseason teams. Even the Toronto Blue Jays, the only AL East team the Orioles have beaten in their past 17 tries, have a young core built around notable sons Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio.
But wait, the sad state of the organization didn’t stop once the game ended. After deciding that Blach’s performances were below the standards of this underperforming club, they optioned him back to Triple-A Norfolk. To the Orioles’ credit, Blach was particularly bad on Friday, allowing all seven of the Rays’ runs to come in the four innings he pitched. Rookie right-hander Dillon Tate and two-year vet Gabriel Ynoa, meanwhile, were able to keep Tampa Bay scoreless through five frames, with six strikeouts and two hits between them. Needless to say, Blach doesn’t seem to be too thrilled about this demotion.
“I feel like the numbers don’t necessarily show how well I threw the first two outings,” Blach said. “Today, I got two outs and had to make one more pitch there somehow to get through that inning. For the most part, I feel like I’m really close. It’s just the numbers that haven’t shown it.”
The good news for Blach is that the low bar of ability that he believes he’s “close” to could definitely be enough to make his way back onto the roster before the year is over. So at least there’s that.