BALTIMORE — As he walked off the mound, disgusted at himself over yet another outing that featured one game-changing inning and five innings of work that were below his standard, the built-up frustration inside Robbie Ray was released.
The veteran lefty fired his glove down the stairs as he neared the third-base dugout at Camden Yards after finishing his fifth and final inning of work.
In another suboptimal outing, Ray failed to meet his two basic criteria for a successful start: Pitching deep into the game and giving his team the best chance for victory.
He didn’t provide either on a sticky hot Wednesday evening at Camden Yards.
And it would only get worse.
Ray’s replacement, Sergio Romo, allowed three homers and five runs in the sixth inning in what would eventually be a 9-2 trouncing by the Baltimore Orioles.
After rolling to a 10-0 rout 24 hours earlier, the Mariners went from bullies to bullied.
Romo gave up back-to-back solo homers to Ryan Mountcastle and Ramon Urias and served up a two-run homer to Trey Mancini in that five-run sixth inning that he couldn’t finish.
“Not exactly how we wanted to build off of last night’s game,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “Romo has been so good for us since we’ve acquired him. Tonight was just been not his night. He left some balls in the middle of the plate and they made him pay.”
After getting at least six innings and two runs or fewer allowed from their starting pitchers in the last four games, Ray couldn’t continue the run of quality starts.
“My stuff was good tonight,” he said. “Just some things that didn’t go my way today.”
Servais has said often, and after each of previous four games, “it starts with starting pitching.”
But for just the second time this season, Ray didn’t make it into the sixth inning of a game.
He pitched just five innings, allowing four runs on six hits with three walks and six strikeouts on 89 pitches. He fell to 4-6 while his ERA ballooned to 4.93. The Mariners have a 5-6 record in his 11 starts.
This isn’t what the Mariners had in mind when they signed Ray to a five-year, $115 million contract this offseason to lead their rotation. While it was illogical to think that Ray would reproduce a season similar to 2021 where he went 13-7 with a 2.84 ERA with 248 strikeouts in 103 1/3 innings and was named the American League Cy Young Award winner, the Mariners did expect something more than replacement-level production.
“Robbie is gonna be fine,” Servais said. “No concerns there. He’s super competitive.”
Ray has yet to give the Mariners an outing where he hasn’t allowed at least one run and has allowed a homer in six of his starts. His best outing came in the season opener in Minnesota where he allowed one run on three hits in seven innings. Since, he’s allowed at least two runs in his last 10 starts, including four-plus runs in four of the 11 outings.
“I just have to trust the process, go about my business every single day like I do and things are gonna turn,” he said. “This was my 11th start, so I’ve probably got at least 20 to 22 left. That’s two-thirds of the year. I mean I’ve got plenty of time.”
Admittedly, he has been plagued by one costly inning in eight of his outings. That inning came early vs. the Orioles.
In the second inning, he allowed a leadoff double to Anthony Santander and walked Mountcastle. After striking out Urias, Ray made a costly mistake to veteran Rougned Odor.
A first-pitch slider stayed on the inner-half of the plate to the ultra-aggressive Odor, who ambushed the pitch, yanking it over the wall in right field for a three-run homer.
“Don’t walk the guy before him and you don’t have to worry about it,” Ray said.
In 11 starts this season, he’s allowed 36 runs in 65 2/3 innings. And in six of those outings, Ray has had one inning where he’s allowed three-plus runs to score. Those six innings have yielded 22 combined runs. The Mariners are 1-5 in those six games.
“If you take away the one big inning in some of his Robbie starts, it’s been Robbie Ray of last year,” Servais said. “It’s been that good. But you can’t really take it away because that’s part of the game. Working through those big innings, tonight included, he’s just not quite as sharp. The slider is usually his go-to pitch. And he left one over the plate, not close to where he wanted to get it against Odor.”
A three-run deficit didn’t guarantee defeat.
The Mariners picked up a run on the fourth inning when J.P. Crawford led off with a solo homer to deep right-center off Orioles starter Kyle Bradish. The Mariners cut the lead to 3-2 in the fifth inning when Taylor Trammell led off with a double and later scored on Julio Rodriguez’s high bouncing groundball to shortstop that cut it to 3-2.
But Ray couldn’t come back with a shutdown inning. He allowed a deep two-out double off the left field wall to Mancini, which missed being a homer by inches. Austin Hays was able to push a groundball single past the diving attempts of Crawford and Adam Frazier to make it 4-2.
“I felt like I made a good pitch and got the guy to hit a weak ground ball and then it finds a hole,” Ray said. “It’s just super frustrating.”
Down two runs going into the sixth inning, Servais turned to Romo, who has been one of the Mariners’ most consistent relievers this season. But the veteran right-hander didn’t have great command with his slider. It meant going to his 85-mph sinker more than usual. Mountcastle won a nine-pitch battle, slamming a sinker over the deep wall in left field. Urias hammered an 0-1 slider that hung in the middle of the plate over the wall in left. After a two-out RBI double from Cedric Mullins, Mancini hammered a 3-2 slider up in the zone into the Orioles bullpen.
“I felt fine,” Romo said. “No excuses. They just were ready. It’s just a matter of making better pitches to put them out. It’s the big leagues. You make mistakes, they should make you pay.”
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