CLEVELAND — Even with six weeks left of games to try to build for their future, there’s little else for these Baltimore Orioles to take on a night-to-night basis than moments.
In their 2-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians before an announced 28,264 at Progressive Field on Friday night, David Hess had one he’ll surely hope to carry with him going forward.
He and the Orioles were already down by the final margin thanks to a two-run home run by José Ramírez in the first inning, and were about to see that deficit grow in the third inning when after a leadoff single and a double play, Hess issued a pair of walks around a hit-by-pitch to load the bases for slugger Yonder Alonso.
Alonso worked the count full before swinging through a back-foot slider, and Hess hopped off the mound back toward the Orioles dugout on the first base side, crisis averted. He scattered a pair of hits and a walk over his last three innings and ended with his first quality start since June 7.
“I think going forward that’s something that gives you a lot of confidence, not only to throw that pitch but for that pitch to be called with to begin with,” Hess said. He looked in and saw catcher Caleb Joseph put down the slider sign, thought about what a big call it was, and threw it as hard as he could.
“It’s a big spot, so for Caleb to have that trust in me, especially in that pitch, that means a lot,” Hess said. “Going forward, I think that will show itself.”
It wasn’t enough to prevent Baltimore (36-86) from falling an astonishing 50 games below .500 with 40 games left to play.
Hess, who made his major league debut with a quality start May 12 against the Tampa Bay Rays, had a 3.07 ERA and four quality starts in his first five starts before the league started to get a bead on him. He allowed at least five runs in his next four starts, then made one appearance in the bullpen before he was sent back to Class AAA Norfolk on July 5.
He was back up by the end of the month, then took the rotation spot left by the Kevin Gausman trade July 31. After struggling in his return to the rotation Aug. 3 in Texas, Hess allowed three runs in 5⅔ innings Aug. 9 against the Tampa Bay Rays before settling in through some precarious situations Friday.
“He was close there to getting away from him, but you look for separators in all players — position players, what separates them — and David tonight, it was just his will,” Orioles Manager Buck Showalter siad. “Command was almost 50-50 balls and strikes again, but I thought his best inning was the last inning. His confidence grew a little bit.”
Said Hess: “Unfortunately that first inning, the home run really prevented a lot of things from happening. But I think it was a good step forward, and it’s a good building block, so we’re going to look to continue to build on it.”
He lowered his ERA to 5.95 with six innings of two-run ball, but Baltimore’s four-hit night meant he fell to 2-7 — and there wasn’t much drama to it.
Just three of those hits came off Cleveland starter Carlos Carrasco, who has been the hottest pitcher in the American League since the All-Star break. The Orioles threatened with two on and two outs in the second and the bases loaded in the fourth inning, but Joey Rickard lined out to left field and struck out to end those respective threats.
“[Carrasco] did a great job of hanging in there, keeping us off balance, mixing up his pitches, and I think we were able to scratch together a few hits but weren’t really able to get a run across there until late,” Chris Davis said.
Trey Mancini singled to score Joseph, who walked, in the eighth inning, before closer Cody Allen wrapped things up for the Indians (70-51).