DL Hall’s first pitch of the night was a fastball that was high and outside. It was a harbinger.
Struggling with his command right from the onset, Hall lasted just two-thirds of an inning Wednesday night for the Frederick Keys in what became a 6-2 loss to the Carolina Mudcats.
It was, by far, the shortest start of the season for one of the Baltimore Orioles’ top pitching prospects and matched the shortest start of his professional career.
Hall (2-2, 4.08 ERA), the Orioles’ first-round pick (No. 21 overall) in the 2017 draft, had gone at least 2 2-3 innings in each of his previous nine starts for the Keys this season.
His only professional start that was as short as Wednesday’s was his fifth and final start for the rookie-level Gulf Coast Orioles in August 2017, roughly two months after he was drafted.
“You know, it happens throughout a season. You go through your ups and downs,” said Hall, who was spared the loss when the Keys rallied to tie the game at 2-2 in the sixth. “It’s something you have to deal with. I will try and bounce back in my next outing.”
Hall had pitched well over the last month, twice going five innings to match his longest start of the season. He also tied his career-high with 10 strikeouts in a May 23 home start against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.
That stood in sharp contrast to Wednesday’s start, which lasted just 41 pitches (22 strikes) before Keys manager Ryan Minor pulled the plug.
“We have to be smart with this kid and be smart with his pitch count. We are going to bring him up slowly,” Minor said. “Here’s a guy who dominated in high school, and he is coming here and pitching against ... some of these guys are 25 and 26 years old he’s facing. He’s only 20 years old. So, it’s a challenge for him.”
Hall walked off the mound with minimal damage done. He allowed an earned run on two hits. But he also walked two and threw a wild pitch. Both of the outs he earned were strikeouts.
“I am not going to change my mindset. Just have to keep battling,” he said. “You just wash this one [away]. As soon as Minor took the ball out of my hand in the first inning, this outing goes away. There is nothing you can do about it. So, you just continue to fight and try and bounce back.”
The Keys (29-35) were unable to bail out their young starter, as they lost for the ninth time in 10 games.
They couldn’t muster a hit against Carolina starter Braden Webb through the first five innings before Keys first baseman JC Escarra delivered a two-run single to tie the game in the sixth.
Escarra’s single, a flare into left field, was nearly identical to his run-scoring single the night before in the fifth inning that drove in what proved to be the game-winning run.
Reliever Matthias Dietz threw a scoreless sixth and seventh innings for the Keys, striking out five in a row in the process.
But he completely lost his command in the eighth, allowing four earned runs without recording an out. That saddled him with the loss, which dropped his record to 1-7.
To start the eighth, Dietz hit a batter, walked one and then hit another. He then surrendered back-to-back singles that allowed Carolina (37-28) to score three runs.
“That’s kind of been the story of his season,” Minor said. “One night he is lights out. The next night, you get two good innings, and, then, all of a sudden, he loses it. You feel for kids like that. He is really trying. But sometimes it doesn’t work out, and tonight was one of those nights.”