SAN DIEGO — The look on Jack Flaherty’s face said it all.
He was already struggling with command, having walked three in a row. Then Gary Sánchez — experiencing a resurgence with the Padres — hit Flaherty’s fastball into right center field. This is slam diego after all, and, on Tuesday, Flaherty was the latest victim.
Sánchez gave the Padres a 5-0 lead before Flaherty even got through a full inning. The newest Orioles pitcher, making just his third start for the team, didn’t fare much better in the second. He gave the team just three innings as Baltimore fell to San Diego 10-3.
“I just noticed the command wasn’t there from the start,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Just a tough time commanding pitches.”
This was, obviously, not what the Orioles intended when they acquired Flaherty from the Cardinals at the trade deadline. They pictured a veteran — a 27-year-old who already has five years of service time — being a solid addition as the team aims for their first playoff appearance since 2016. He delivered in his first two starts, giving up one run in six innings in his first and three in five in his second.
Things, though, quickly went south on Tuesday. He needed 34 pitches to get through the first, only 18 of which were strikes. Flaherty gave up two more runs in the second, off a double from Manny Machado, and needed 39 pitches to get through that inning. The only minuscule silver lining is that he was able to get through the third without giving up another run, saving at least one inning from the bullpen.
It wasn’t just one thing that went wrong. His breaking balls were down and out of the zone, and most of the damage was done with two outs.
He plans to use this start to help him better prepare for his next outing.
“I don’t believe in flush and forget,” Flaherty said. “I take it and it doesn’t mean you have to re-invent everything, just have to understand what happened and what went wrong and make adjustments from there. It’s not always about re-inventing the wheel, you just want to make small adjustments.”
The Orioles added Flaherty, in part, so they could ease the workload of some of their younger pitchers. Grayson Rodriguez, Kyle Bradish and Dean Kremer have all already surpassed their career-highs in innings pitched with over 40 games — plus playoffs — still remaining. Baltimore moved to a six-man rotation hoping to ease some of that burden, but that meant one less arm in the bullpen. The team can only carry 13 pitchers.
Flaherty’s poor performance meant that smaller reliever corps, though, had five innings to get through. Nick Vespi, trying to solidify his place in the majors, ate up two of those five frames, allowing three runs on six hits. Shintaro Fujinami, on a constant quest to hone in his command, faced the minimum in the sixth.
Mike Baumann took the seventh. Faced with an already depleted bullpen, Hyde sent backup catcher James McCann out for the eighth, his first major league pitching appearance. He left his outing — which featured a 39 mph ‘curveball’ — unscathed.
“That was the best part of the game,” Hyde said.