In losing six out of seven games, sometimes it's felt like every single bad break, bad hop, and lucky bloop hit has gone against the Orioles, to say nothing of the shining displays of incompetence that create more chances for that bad luck. In some ways, today's game was set up to be another one of those games, with four Orioles GIDPs, two home runs allowed by Orioles pitching, and possibly the worst send by a third base coach that any of us who watched the game have ever seen.
Thankfully for the Orioles, they were playing against the Nationals, who, eight game winning streak notwithstanding, are perfectly capable of the kind of mind-boggling failure at baseball the same as the O's. The Nats countered with three errors that led to two unearned runs, two home runs allowed, and only a total of two at-bats in the entire game where runners were in scoring position. So in the end it was one of those games where the opposition out-Orioled the Orioles; unsurprisingly, the O's have a good record in these sorts of games.
The path for disaster seemed to be set in the second inning, when the O's loaded the bases with no one out only to have the promising rally erased by a 6-4-3 double play from Craig Tatum. A run scored, but how often have we seen these lost runs come back to bite the Orioles? Tatum somewhat atoned for this travesty with an RBI single later in the game, and an RBI sac fly as well.
No one would have been surprised if Chris Jakubauskas took the mound in the bottom of that inning and the wheels fell off, because that's how it goes for the Orioles. He held the Nats scoreless until the fourth, though, and by that time the O's had a 3-0 lead built up. Again, it felt like the start of one of "those" innings as Mark Reynolds misplayed a ball down the left field line from Michael Morse that bounced past Reynolds for a run-scoring double. To be fair to Mark, the next batter, Danny Espinosa, also hit a double and so the run may have scored anyway, but it looked like he should have at least gotten in front and knocked it down.
Momentum may have favored the Nats at that point, but Jakubauskas helped out his cause by leading off the next inning with a solid single. J.J. Hardy followed with a double that bounced off the scoreboard in right-center field, and the O's should have had second and third with nobody out, but third-base coach John Russell had the windmill going for the chugging pitcher and Jakubauskas was out at the plate by probably eight feet. It's one of the worst sends, if not the worst, that I've ever seen. The thing that made it so ridiculous is that he was sending a pitcher on a play where anyone would have been out, and there was no incentive to send him when it would have resulted in two men in scoring position and nobody out. What does it take to get a third-base coach who's competent at judging these things?
When Nick Markakis flied out to send it to two outs it looked like another instance of the O's running themselves out of an inning, but back-to-back hits by Adam Jones and Derrek Lee staked them to a 5-2 lead, which was all they'd need.
In all, Jakubauskas went for five innings, allowing six hits, including a home run to Roger Bernadina, his fourth on the year. He also allowed a walk and recorded six strikeouts, with three earned runs charged to him. Not great, but good enough for Jakubauskas. He got two hits himself at the plate, with Buck even leaving Jakubauskas in to hit for himself in the top of the 6th even though Jim Johnson came on to pitch starting in the bottom of the inning.
To some extent, starting pitching is a bit like running away from a bear. You don't have to be great, you just have to be better than the other guy. And Jakubauskas was definitely the better of the two today, with Nats starter Tom Gorzelanny giving up five runs (four earned) over 4.2 IP, having allowed ten hits and a walk without getting a single strikeout.
For as much as the Orioles have been extra-base hit challenged this year, entering the game with the fewest doubles and triples in the AL, the power bats were out enough today. Of the fourteen hits, there were home runs by Hardy and Reynolds, and three doubles. Multi-hit games came from Jakubauskas (!), Lee, Hardy, and Reynolds (three hits). NL pitching seems to agree with Lee, who went 9-13 in the series. Although before we get too excited, let's keep in mind that Jakubauskas had more hits today than Orioles catchers combined in the series.
Having to get four innings from the bullpen is a frightening prospect, but the O's were able to send out their two best relievers for two innings each. Jim Johnson chewed up the Nats hitters, allowing only one hit. Koji Uehara went for two innings as well, giving up a cheap infield single to Bernadina, and also a home run to Espinosa. Koji is quite homer prone this year, but bases empty homers with a four run lead are a lot less painful than walk-off homers in extra innings.
Tomorrow, the stretch of games against traditionally terrible NL teams who this year are unexpectedly hovering near .500 continues as the O's will be in Pittsburgh looking for vengeance for the 1971 and 1979 World Series. Not really though, but it would be sweet if they got some anyway. Jake Arrieta starts for the O's, and Charlie Morton, he who copied Roy Halladay's delivery, will be on the mound for Pittsburgh.