Late-breaking news: Following this game, Jeremy Accardo was designated for assignment to make room on the roster for Brad Bergesen. Dare we hope Gonzo will be next to get the DFA?
When you think of some of the iconic moments of failure over the last decade-plus of Orioles baseball, certain events stand out more than others. There were the pedestrian misadventures of Stumblin' Jack Cust. There was Todd Williams trying to walk Miguel Cabrera but giving up the game-winning hit instead. There is the rolling montage of failure that was the 30-3 game against Texas. In tonight's game against the Nationals, another member was born into that pantheon of ignominy: Jeremy Accardo issuing a four-pitch walk to a relief pitcher who was trying to square for a sacrifice bunt.
For Accardo, the damage was already done even before that plate appearance. He led off the bottom of the sixth inning by walking Wilson Ramos, then heaved a meatball out over the plate to Jerry Hairston Jr., who doubled and drove in Ramos to break what was then a 4-4 tie. Accardo retired only a single batter and ended up with three earned runs charged when the inherited runners scored after Jason Berken relieved him, putting the O's in a 7-4 deficit that would be all the Nats needed.
This was the standout example of failure on a disastrous night for the Orioles, and perhaps this outing will be the catalyst to hasten the end of Accardo's reign of terror in the bullpen. After tonight, Accardo's sporting a 5.29 ERA and reports came out during the game that Brad Bergesen will be rejoining the club for tomorrow. Watching tonight's performance, I don't see how anyone other than Accardo could be the roster casualty. Therefore, I have no reason to believe that will be the decision made.
Accardo's pathetic performance was the most egregious of many bad ones tonight. This was a game that otherwise might have been full of promise, with the O's notching eighteen hits off Nats pitchers, including twelve off Nats starter Jason Marquis. But there wasn't enough clutch hitting to overcome all of the mistakes, leaving the O's regretting wasted opportunities all throughout the game. The Orioles twice had the first two batters reach base in an inning only to have a promising scoring chance destroyed by a double-play ground ball.
The defense from certain corners was not blameless in the loss either. An awful error by Mark Reynolds at an inopportune moment cast a pall on what should have been a totally Birdland start by Zach Britton, who was getting by fairly well until Reynolds' throwing error on an attempted sacrifice by Marquis plated the first Nationals run and led to a prolonged four-run inning where the Nats nickel-and-dimed Britton. He would have been Birdland, even adding an RBI double in the top of the 4th, which happens to be the same number of extra-base hits as Nick Markakis has managed over his past six games.
If you looked at the box score other than the actual number of runs scored you might have thought it was a great game for the Orioles. Four Orioles had multi-hit games, with four-hit efforts by Markakis and Adam Jones, and a five-hit game by Derrek Lee. Between the combined thirteen hits from those gentlemen, Lee scored one run and that was it.
Four of the eighteen hits were for extra bases, but even for that the O's runners were left hopping station-to-station. Meanwhile, Nats players were running on O's pitching, taking the extra base first-to-third on singles, and scoring from second on plays where the O's just weren't.
Britton ended up with five hits, two walks and four strikeouts, with four runs but only one earned given up over five innings. He'd only thrown 81 pitches, but he was pulled for a pinch-hitter when his turn in the order came up in the top of the sixth with runners on second and third and only one out. Vladimir Guerrero hit for Britton, which proved to be a good decision as he drove a breaking ball into center field to score Reynolds. Chris Jakubauskas pinch-ran for Vlad, probably because the usual pitcher-pinch-runner Jeremy Guthrie had back spasms yesterday. There were two singles after Jakubauskas ran, but he ended the inning on third base.
The four run output stands out all the more when you consider that they had fifteen of those eighteen hits in the first six innings. That's 2.5 baserunners per inning in that span and only four runs to show for it. Between Accardo and Reynolds, they needed the help and they couldn't give it to themselves. After the bullpen disaster, the wind was out of the O's sails and they did not get another runner in scoring position until the 9th when Lee took second on defensive indifference. In all, they managed to strand twelve men on base, and that's not even counting ones who were erased by GIDP before an inning ended. Matt Wieters stands out here, going 0-4 with RISP including a GIDP. It was a rough night for Switch-Hitting Jesus, who also went 0-3 throwing out Nats runners.
Michael Gonzalez allowed the now-it's-not-even-a-save-situation home run in the bottom of the 8th inning to Roger Bernadina, because he's been a terrible pitcher for the Orioles this year and that's just what he does. Not sufficiently satisfied with crushing the hopes of O's fans by allowing that homer, he also gave up a single to Ian Desmond (he of the .279 OBP) and walked Michael Morse before mercifully being pulled from the game. In all he gave up three hits and two walks over 1.2 IP, but Koji Uehara got the final out to clean it up before it got even messier.
The Orioles will have to brush away the bad mojo from this game quickly because it's a 1:05pm start time for tomorrow's game. Brian Matusz will be looking to put some tough outings behind him and show he's not still suffering from a lack of stamina and strength after his intercostal injury. Jordan Zimmermann, who's given up only two earned runs in his last 21 innings pitched, starts for the Nats.