Milone steady, but O's drop below .500

August 26th, 2020

Despite their surprisingly competitive start, the Orioles are not going to be buyers at Monday's Trade Deadline. That was a long-term decision the organization made way before it opened its seven-game road trip on Tuesday at Tropicana Field with a 4-2 loss to the Rays, which dropped the O's one game below .500 (14-15). The calculus means this could be the final week in a Baltimore uniform for several players performing well.

Perhaps under the radar, one of those players is left-hander , who profiles as potential rotation depth or bullpen help whom the Orioles would be willing to dangle at the right price for a contender. The reasons were clear despite the losing effort Tuesday, when Milone held Tampa Bay to four runs (two earned) over 5 1/3 serviceable innings.

Through five starts this season, Milone owns a 3.99 ERA. The 33-year-old journeyman has struck out 31 and walked just four across 29 1/3 innings. That is well above Milone’s career strikeout rate and strikeouts-to-walks rate for the crafty lefty, whose fastball clocks in only at the mid- to upper-80s.

“He’s been really solid for us, as advertised,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “He’s a guy who can really command his fastball and has a really nice changeup when it’s on. He’s done that every time out for us.”

Speaking after the game, Milone credited tunneling and underlying analytics as reasons he’s missing more bats this year, saying he learned he has “good ride” on his fastball when thrown up in the zone. The numbers back that up. Despite just second-percentile velocity, per Statcast, Milone’s heater gets 41st-percentile spin -- not elite by any measure, but significant enough to make the fastball play up, especially when thrown toward the top and inner portions of the zone to righties.

“That kind of frees the down-and-away portion to righties,” Milone said. “Command-wise, I’ve always been a guy who went through a few mechanical issues a few years back, and it took me a while to feel comfortable again. I feel like I’m in a good place right now.”

Said Hyde: “He’s somebody who’s been in the league for a while who knows how to pitch, who can add and subtract to keep hitters off-balance.”

In Hyde’s telling, it’s the kind of consistency the Orioles were hoping to get from Milone when they signed him to a one-year, $800,000 deal last offseason. And with John Means limited by circumstance and Wade LeBlanc out for the season with a left elbow injury, Milone has buoyed the O’s rotation in the aggregate.

But on Tuesday, it wasn’t enough opposite Rays starter Tyler Glasnow, who largely breezed through the Orioles' lineup while Milone was dinged by Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot homers and a consequential Pat Valaika error in the sixth. Glasnow struck out a career-high 13 in seven innings of two-run ball, allowing just Renato Núñez’s first-inning solo homer and Ryan Mountcastle’s run-scoring single in the fourth.

The RBI was Mountcastle’s first in the Major Leagues. He also walked and struck out twice -- including as the tying run in the ninth in an at-bat split between Jalen Beeks (who exited with a left arm injury) and Edgar Garcia. The Orioles matched a season high by punching out 15 times on the evening, which also marked the end of Anthony Santander’s 18-game hitting streak.

Glasnow improved to 3-0 with a 2.12 ERA vs. Baltimore in five starts. He has struck out 38 over 29 2/3 innings.

"Man, Glasnow threw an amazing game,” said Núñez, who tucked a 332-foot line drive over the short left-field wall to break a 14-game homerless drought. “He was throwing strikes, strikes, strikes. Curveball strikes. Fastball strikes. What can I say? We battled and tried to have good at-bats."

Up next
The Orioles hand the ball to Asher Wojciechowski (1-3, 4.84 ERA) on Wednesday night as they continue their longest road trip of the season so far with the second of three games against the Rays. Baltimore will look for length from Wojciechowski, who has completed five innings in just one of his past three starts. Tampa Bay will start Trevor Richards (0-0, 5.94 ERA). First pitch is set for 6:40 p.m. ET from Tropicana Field, live on MLB.TV.