Two months ago, the predicament the Orioles found themselves in on Wednesday would not have been a possibility.
Prior to Aug. 1, Drew Rom was one of them. He was drafted in 2018 by the Orioles, a fourth-round pick out of high school. He climbed up the levels, getting added to the 40-man roster last offseason to protect him from being selected in the Rule 5 draft. Rom was with Triple-A Norfolk when, just minutes before the deadline, he was traded to the Cardinals as part of a package for Jack Flaherty.
Rom never got the opportunity to take the mound at Camden Yards as a member of the team that drafted him. But on Wednesday he took the field with the visiting Cardinals, holding the Orioles scoreless for 5 1/3 innings. St. Louis went on to win 1-0, taking the series.
“We didn’t square many balls up,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “Give him credit, pitched really well. We had a tough time hitting his fastball, kept us off balance with the sweeping slider. We didn’t do much.”
The magic number for Baltimore (91-54) to make the playoffs remains at four. To win the division, it is 15. The earliest the Orioles can clinch a wild-card spot is Friday.
“I think the last thing we need to do right now is make too much about one loss and losing a series,” pitcher Kyle Gibson said. “Yeah, does it stink that Tampa won? Sure. Now we’re two games up and if we play really good baseball over the next two weeks I think we’ll be fine.”
To hit that milestone, though, the Orioles will need lots of help or to have their offense wake up from the funk it’s been in the past two nights. They scored only two runs Tuesday and none on Wednesday after hitting double digits in three out of four prior games.
Rom stumped the Orioles, not allowing a hit until the fifth inning, when Jorge Mateo outran the throw to first. Anthony Santander had the only other hit against Rom, a double in the sixth. It was the best start of Rom’s young major league career, and a better result than the Orioles have gotten from Flaherty.
“No, but I think that one feels a little bit sweeter,” Rom said when asked if this was how he imagined his first time pitching in Baltimore going. “Because, yeah, they did trade me away and I got a chip on my shoulder because of that. But, going out there and pitching well against some of your best friends, it’s always a good feeling.”
The Orioles’ offense still had no answers as the Cardinals moved to their bullpen. They were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, spoiling chances with men on base in the eighth and ninth innings. The offensive woes could continue to take a hit — Ryan Mountcastle, a prominent piece of the lineup, was removed in the third inning with left shoulder discomfort. Specifics on the injury are not known yet.
Their inability to hit overshadowed Gibson’s best start of the second half. He went 6 2/3 innings, allowing three hits and just one run, a solo homer from former Towson player Richie Palacios. The length was important for the Orioles, who have taxed their bullpen in recent days.
Columnist Kyle Goon contributed reporting