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Orioles’ worst season ever ends with another challenge

September 27, 2018

BALTIMORE The schedule-makers did no favors for the Baltimore Orioles, who are winding down the worst season in franchise history.

The Orioles ended the road portion of their horrid 2018 campaign late Wednesday night in Boston, winning the nightcap of a doubleheader against a Red Sox team that is 107-52 and set a team record for wins in a season.

The Birds lost the first game 19-3 as four different pitchers allowed at least four runs.

Now Baltimore ends the season with a four-game series at Camden Yards this weekend, starting Thursday night, against the world champion Houston Astros.

“You want to go out and win. There’s a pride factor and a professionalism that goes into it,” Orioles outfielder Trey Mancini said. “You don’t lay down any game, no matter who you’re playing. You want to go out and put your best foot forward and try to win. We’re going to do that the last four games.”

The Orioles have set a franchise record for losses in a season and were 46-112 in games through Wednesday, an amazing 60 games back of division champion Boston. They broke a record set in 1998 when the Orioles lost their first 21 games and ended the year 54-107.

The St. Louis Browns were 43-111 in 1939, then moved to Baltimore for the 1954 season.

The Orioles’ clubhouse is crowded these days, as expanded rosters in September allows for as many as 40 players available to manager Buck Showalter.

Many of the new faces are young pitchers, several who joined the organization in late July as prospects after the Orioles traded veterans such as Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Kevin Gausman and Brad Brach.

“It has been a lot different this year than years past in terms of turnover,” catcher Caleb Joseph said. “There is turnovers with guys you have never seen before, guys acquired in trades or waiver claims.”

Gausman and Brach were dealt to Atlanta, helping the Braves stave off the Phillies and Nationals and win the National League East title. Meanwhile, the woeful Orioles are building for the future and those new pitchers createa learning curve for Joseph, who has been with the club since 2014.

How does Joseph learn the arsenal of all the new hurlers?

“You just try your best to figure out what their strengths and weaknesses are and just try to put them in the situation where they can succeed,” Joseph said. “Sometimes that gets tough.”

Outfielder D.J. Stewart became the franchise record-tying 14th Oriole to make his big league debut on Sept. 12. Several of those players are pitchers, including those acquired in July trades.

“It can at times be a challenge. After a few outings there is only so much talk you can do,” Joseph said. “Quite honestly the advance scouts do a lot of stuff for us.”

Joseph said he doesn’t keep index cards on each Orioles pitcher.

“Up here,” he said, pointing to the right side of his brain.

One of the new pitchers is Cody Carroll, a hard-throwing reliever who was traded by the Yankees in July in the deal that sent all-star closer Zach Britton to New York. About a week later, he made his big league debut with Baltimore, coming on in the bottom of the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium.

“I think it is a great opportunity for myself and others that got traded over here. We are in a rebuilding process,” the Tennessee native said.

More help could be coming down on the farm, though it could be a winter of change as Showalter and general manager Dan Duquette are in the last year of their contracts.

Left-handed starter Keegan Akin was the Eastern League pitcher of the year this season with the Double-A Bowie Baysox. He shared the Jim Palmer Award as the top pitcher in the Orioles minor league system with Zac Lowther, who ended the season with the Frederick Keys.

The Orioles drafted Lowther out of Xavier in 2017. Lowther began this season in Salisbury with the Single-A Delmarva Shorebirds.

“He didn’t miss a beat when he went up to Frederick, which is a really tough ballpark to pitch in,” Duquette said.

Akin and Lowther were honored on the field before a recent game with the White Sox at Camden Yards. The minor league player of the year was outfielder Cedric Mullins, who played in college at Campbell in North Carolina and was drafted by Orioles scout Rich Morales, who lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Mullins spent most of the season at Bowie, became the first Oriole player to get three hits in his first big league game in August and then had four hits in a game on Sept. 16.

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