BALTIMORE -- The comparisons will keep coming, so long as the Astros keep transforming pitchers overnight, homering at historic rates and riding into town for witness -- a living, breathing model of what the Orioles hope to become. With so many behind-the-scenes architects of the machine that is these Astros now in Baltimore, the two are held up against each other whenever they filter into opposing dugouts. In the present day, they are foil franchises. In the future, the Orioles hope to follow Houston's lead.
Both privately and publicly, few within Oriole Park at Camden Yards shy away from how much work -- on the analytics, international scouting and other fronts -- remains to be done. On the field, it becomes ultra-clear on nights like Saturday, when Houston sent the Orioles to a 23-2 defeat that served as a snapshot of the infancy stage that Baltimore's rebuild is currently in. It also goes in the books as one of the worst losses in franchise history.
“By the third inning, I was like, ‘How am I going to finish this game?'” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Somehow, we finished it.”
They did so by calling once again upon emergency mop-up man Stevie Wilkerson, who recorded the final four outs for Baltimore, but also allowed Yordan Alvarez’s third homer of the night in the center fielder’s fourth relief appearance. The Orioles were down more than two touchdowns by then, already the first Major League team to surrender at least 20 runs in a game this season. All told, they surrendered six home runs for the second time in their past three games, and at least five for the fourth time in five nights.
It marked the most runs they’ve allowed in nearly 12 years, since setting the all-time single-game record in their 30-3 loss to Texas on Aug. 22, 2007. The Orioles have now lost five straight, all to the Astros and Yankees, with five more against those two powerhouses scheduled for the next four days.
“This is the big-boy league,” said outfielder Trey Mancini. “We’ve played some really good teams so far and it hasn’t been a good homestand. But that’s a loser’s mentality, thinking you’re going to be taking a beating. You can’t come to the park expecting that.”
Alex Bregman, Alvarez (thrice), Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa all homered for the Astros. Correa’s third-inning solo shot was measured at 474 feet, the longest home run ever tracked at Camden Yards. Along with his ninth-inning homer off Wilkerson, Alvarez added a seventh-inning grand slam off Tayler Scott, and went back to back with Bregman in the first frame against Orioles starter Aaron Brooks.
"Looking back on tonight, we have to figure out what we did wrong,” said Brooks, who allowed nine runs over three innings and now sports a 9.40 ERA over six starts with Baltimore. “Me, personally, I did quite a bit wrong."
The right-hander became the seventh Orioles pitcher to allow at least four homers in an outing this year, another homer-centric Major League record for a club that’s making a habit of setting them. Brooks also became the third Orioles starter to allow at least nine earned runs in a start this season, the franchise’s highest single-season total since 1996. The Orioles are the first team since the Mets last Aug. 16 to allow 25 hits in a game; they’ve now done so three times in franchise history.
“He was up in the zone, and they were on everything he threw,” Hyde said of Brooks. “They were not missing.”
All the offense came against the backdrop of another strong outing from Aaron Sanchez, the latest in a line of hurlers to alter his approach once arriving in Houston and finding immediate success. Again throwing predominately four-seam fastballs, Sanchez held the Orioles to just one run on Jace Peterson’s sac fly over his five innings, cruising in his second start with Houston behind a bevy of run support.
Once known for successfully rebuilding the way the Orioles strive to today, the Astros are arguably now more regarded for churning out reclamation projects like Sanchez that help keep their budding dynasty chugging along. The Orioles hope to get to a point where they can do the same, as their analytic and player development initiatives grow over the next few years.
“They’re a great team over there, probably World Series favorites,” Mancini said. “It’s tough to be out there, but it’s our job. You’re going to have games where you give up a lot of runs, but you keep plugging along and keep playing.”