On Saturday night, Andrew Cashner did something he had only done three other times is his entire big league career.
He gave up three home runs in a start.
The ground ball specialist had only allowed 15 home runs in 2017, but he was up in the strike zone all night.
Unfortunately for the Orioles, the Twins didn’t miss.
The outing was certainly not what the Orioles expected when they inked Cashner to a potentially $41 million deal in February. While it is just one start in the first series of the season, it was important for Cashner to throw a good one to get a sour taste out of the collective mouths of the team and its fans.
What Kevin Gausman did the following day only added to the acidity.
Gausman’s first pitch of the season was right down the middle of the plate to Brian Dozier, who promptly deposited the ball into the left field stands for a quick 1-0 lead. Gausman allowed three more runs in the first inning, and six on the day, including two more home runs in just four innings of work. It was hardly the start envisioned when he switched his number from 39 to 34 to honor the late, great Roy Halladay.
After a dismal performance by the starting rotation in 2017, the Orioles’ number two and three starters in 2018 combined to allow 11 runs (10 earned) on 13 hits and six home runs in nine innings. To put that into perspective, Gausman’s counterpart on Sunday, Jose Berrios, threw nine innings of three hit, shutout baseball.
Bad would be an understatement.
Of course, the pitching isn’t only to blame. After the opening series with Minnesota, the Orioles offense is the coldest in all of baseball, batting just .117, last in the Majors. While they certainly aren’t the only team with playoff aspirations to get off to a cold start — the Cubs struck out 47 times in their opening series and the Indians are batting .186 in their 1-2 start — it is particularly alarming given what is staring the team directly in the face.
The Orioles now must go to Houston for the Astros’ home-opening series. As if that weren’t enough, they then travel to New York for four games before coming home to play Toronto. After Toronto, they head to Boston for a four-game series over Patriots Day weekend, and then they have a series with the Cleveland Indians the following weekend. That’s like taking a drive down tornado alley in late June.
While the Orioles appear to be a good baseball team, they likely are not as talented as the Yankees, Red Sox, Astros and Indians. (I did pick the O’s to finish ahead of Boston this season). A quick start against the Twins out of the gate was crucial to the Orioles negating a bit of the top heavy schedule, but the team fell flat on their faces.
The Gausman start was especially alarming because of his past struggles in the first half of a season. For his career, Gausman pitches to a 4.94 ERA in the first half, and 3.69 ERA in the second half. For the Orioles to be successful, it is important that he puts together two good halves. The talk out of Sarasota was that he was primed to do just that.
Instead, he treated Birdland to more of the same.
It is certainly too early to be up in arms about three games, just like if the Orioles had swept the Twins out of Baltimore it would have been too early to call the team world-beaters. Still, the alternative would beat reality, and the Orioles have a tough stretch staring them in the face. Chris Tillman gets the ball on Monday night in Houston.
Here’s hoping he can keep it in the ballpark.