Orioles clipped by Blue Jays pitching
Hernandez solid on mound, but support not there for righty
BALTIMORE -- With second baseman Brian Roberts and closer Mike Gonzalez both absent from Saturday's game, the Orioles' offense was thrust into the spotlight. And the result wasn't pretty, as the bats continued to scuffle, mustering five hits against Toronto's fifth starter Dana Eveland in a 3-0 loss in front of a crowd of 21,148 at Camden Yards.
The Orioles had a baserunner on each of the first five innings, but came up well short of home plate. The team's 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position marker dropped their season total to 8-for-46 through the first four games. Julio Lugo, filling in for Roberts -- who is day-to-day with a strained abdominal muscle -- singled twice and walked in the fifth. He was the lone Oriole to record a multihit night off Eveland.
"He pitched to the corners, he changed speeds, up, down, in and out, and if you go back and watch the game, I guarantee you that you're not going to see too many pitches over the heart of the plate," Ty Wigginton said of Eveland. "Any time a pitcher does that, they're going to be successful."
Eveland, who won a spot in Toronto's rotation on the final day of Spring Training, yielded five hits over 7 1/3 innings, walking two and picking up a pair of strikeouts. Small sample size aside, the lefty has owned the Orioles' hitters, pitching 14 1/3 scoreless innings in his career against Baltimore.
"When you have a team that is chasing a pitch, you just try to keep going with it until they show you that they can make the adjustment," Toronto catcher Jose Molina said. "[Saturday night], the Orioles didn't make that adjustment on him, and that's why we took advantage of it."
The O's best chance to score came in the fourth, when Nick Markakis drew a leadoff walk and was followed by an infield single from Miguel Tejada. One out later, Matt Wieters' deep center field fly advanced the runners, but Nolan Reimold -- who doubled in the second -- was called out on strikes to end the frame.
Baltimore's starter David Hernandez -- who also won his rotation spot late in camp -- struggled with a high pitch count early, but was effective nonetheless. The young right-hander came out and fired three scoreless frames before an odd series of events lead to a run in the fourth.
With two outs and first base open, the Orioles decided to walk Travis Snider intentionally and bring No. 9 hitter Molina to the plate. But Hernandez hit Molina to score Edwin Encarnacion. It wouldn't be the first time an intentional walk to Snider cost Hernandez. He did it again in the sixth and Molina -- who entered the game a career 0-for-2 off Hernandez -- made him pay by singling in another run.
But Molina's real weaponry was behind the plate, as the veteran backstop helped call a game that kept Baltimore's bats on their shoulders as they drearily trudged back to the home dugout.
"When Molina's catching, he's one of those catchers to where he's unpredictable," Orioles outfielder Adam Jones said. "He calls a good game -- that's why he's been around for 10, 11 years. He calls a good game and he did it again."
And Hernandez's respectful regular-season debut -- two earned runs over six innings -- went for naught.
"The middle innings, he showed command," manager Dave Trembley said. "For Hernandez, that's three pitches. He was not reluctant to back up his offspeed pitch and his breaking pitch. And his fastball command was better. It was much like it was in Spring Training, pitching down."
"I'll take the way Hernandez pitched. We'll win some games if he pitches like that."
Hernandez -- facing hitters for the first time in a week -- said he was pleased with his debut, although not completely satisfied.
"That was my goal, ultimately -- to just try and get a good quality start and keep the team in the game," he said. "There are still plenty of things I need to work on, but now I'm definitely able to get into my five-day routine."
The Orioles bats are also seeking a sense of normalcy. While Gonzalez's struggles in the ninth inning have been highly magnified, the team's offense has been equally woeful. Baltimore is 1-4 this season, with three of those losses by one run. As a team, they are hitting .231 with 17 runs in five games, and are nearly 90 batting average points below last season's RISP mark of .284.
"We've played competitive baseball," Trembley said. "The game turns hard in both directions quickly. Right now it's not getting done by us. The bottom line is win, we're not doing it -- we need to do better."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.