Before I can get the bitter taste out of my mouth from Tuesday’s 10-0 shellacking at the hands of the Seattle Mariners, I first have to get past Sunday’s game.
What happened to Darren O’Day, O’Day-O’Day-O’Day — O’Day, O’Day on Sunday shouldn’t still bother me, but it does.
O’Day had allowed multiple home runs in a game only two times in his entire career. The other two games both came in 2011 when he was pitching for Texas.
Back-to-back homers? That happened once before.
And that’s not even to mention the blown check-swing call.
Still, it’s important to keep things in perspective. It’s only one game. It’s not like one out of 162 total games makes all that big of a difference, right?
Great. Thanks, Darren. You’re not helping.
It appears I’ll need to broaden my time frame in order to put Sunday’s game in its proper perspective. What lessons can Orioles history teach me to make it all better?
Lesson 1: Well, May 15 is simply not a good day for Orioles relievers.
Darren O’Day became the third member of the Baltimore bullpen to surrender multiple home runs on May 15.
Prior to O’Day, there was John Halama allowing back-to-back jacks in the ninth inning of a game versus the Red Sox on May 15, 2006, and Pete Richert giving up homers in consecutive innings on May 15, 1968.
Halama pitched to a 6.14 ERA (6.32 FIP), a 1.739 WHIP, and a 0.92 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 17 games during his lone season in Baltimore. Richert actually had decent numbers during his time in Baltimore, and the O’s won despite his rough outing on that day in ’68.
Verdict: Of course! It’s the infamous “Curse of May 15.” Darren O’Day was defenseless against the powers of bad baseball juju that descend upon Orioles relievers in the middle of the fifth month.
Lesson 2: It could be worse. In fact, it was worse not so long ago.
Two Orioles relievers each allowed two home runs in the same game in 2011. Remember that? For your sake, I hope not.
The O’s lost 17-5 at home to the Washington Nationals on May 20, 2011. Jason Berken allowed a pair of homers in the fifth inning. Not to be outdone, Mike Gonzalez allowed a home run in the seventh inning and then another one in the eighth inning.
Of the five pitchers to take the mound at Camden Yards that day, only Clay Rapada, who had the worst ERA of the bunch, kept the ball inside the ballpark. All five pitchers gave up runs, and two guys – starter Jake Arrieta and Berken – surrendered six earned runs apiece.
Verdict: After Gonzalez was done back in that 2011 game, Kevin Gregg entered through the bullpen gates. Am I smiling because I’m feeling better? No, no, that’s not it. I’m actually stifling a laugh while thinking about the 2011 bullpen.
Lesson 3: It could be worse, take two.
The most home runs allowed by any O’s reliever in a single game is four. It’s not fair to pin the worst day label on the four guys who did that, however. The real standouts when it comes to homers allowed by relievers are Pedro Viola and Mike Trombley. Both guys allowed three homers without recording a single out.
First, let’s return to 2011 again. Pedro Viola enters a July 7 game versus the Red Sox with the O’s already trailing 7-3. He allows home runs to the first three batters he faces. He then walks the fourth batter. He exits without recording an out and the O’s trailing 10-3.
A little further back in O’s history there’s Mike Trombley’s effort on May 13, 2000. Again the opponent is the Red Sox. And again the home crowd is getting lots of opportunities to snag souvenirs.
Trombley enters in the eighth inning with two outs in a game the Orioles are leading 1-0. He immediately surrenders a two-run homer. A solo home run follows. He then hits a batter with a pitch. Finally, he allows another two-run job. Final score: Boston 5 – Baltimore 1.
In hindsight, it’s amazing that Jason Johnson, who pitched seven shutout innings that day, didn’t choke Trombley on the spot. Johnson went 1-10 that season, and his one win came in relief. He had allowed 11 earned runs in nine innings of work in his previous two outings combined before shutting out the Red Sox heading into the seventh-inning stretch on May 13.
Verdict: Are those tears of joy? No, no, that’s not it. The memories of ballpark takeovers, excruciating losses to the Red Sox, Big Papi homering at Camden Yards, it’s all too much to bear. Is this supposed to be making me feel better or worse? It’s doing a bit of both.
Lesson 4: Heck, we’ll always have 2011.
Whenever things seem even the slightest bit bleak during this current baseball renaissance in Baltimore, you can always find comfort in these words: “At least it’s not 2011.” Okay, in truth you can substitute several pre-2012 seasons into that sentence and it still works. For now, let’s stick to the most-recent past.
You may have noticed that the 2011 bullpen made its way into two of the preceding sections. That wasn’t by design. Perhaps it inevitable, though.
Orioles pitchers allowed a major-league-worst 210 home runs in 2011. That’s more than 20 home runs more than any other team allowed. The bullpen allowed an average of 1.21 home runs per nine innings, second-worst to the 1.33 average posted by the Texas pen. O’s relievers appeared more often than Rangers relievers, however, so the O’s bullpen gave up a major-league worst 76 home runs. We Were Number 1! We Were Number 1! We Were Number 1!
Verdict: I think it’s time to end this stroll down memory lane. Even on his worst day, Darren O’Day is no John Halama. No Pedro Viola. No Mike Trombley.
To borrow a phrase from Sunday’s opponent and apply it to the Orioles’ bullpen, “Bless You Boys.”