I went to downtown Baltimore today and witnessed a scene of chaos, panic and disorder that I don't think has been equaled since that one summer after the train derailment when all the manhole covers randomly started exploding. Then the Orioles game ended and I saw the final stages of the Grand Prix preparations.
Okay, so the O's lost the game to the Blue Jays, with the loss sealing a non-winning season even if the team won every game from here to the end of the season. As far as the game went, it was not a pantheon loss by any means. The loss was more of a garden variety one, among the endless stream of games we've seen where the Orioles get some runs but their starter sucks and at least one bullpen pitcher sucks, and they have a chance to come back in the game late but having scored a number of runs their offense decides to also suck.
Against Toronto starter Luis Perez, the Orioles hitters managed to get five runs. Perez pitched into the sixth but did not retire a batter in that inning. He gave up six hits, including two homers, and three walks in his time in the game. The damage was done in its entirety by Matt Wieters (double and homer) and Vladimir Guerrero (two doubles and a homer). Unfortunately for the O's, the three batters before Vlad went 0-for-the game, and the three batters after Wieters also went 0-for-the game.
In a particularly frustrating sequence in the 6th, Vlad and Wieters were at 1st and 2nd out with none down and two runs already in. Mark Reynolds flew out, but the runners got to 2nd and 3rd with one out thanks to a throwing error on a pickoff attempt. Nolan Reimold then grounded into a fielder's choice, and Vlad came home, where he was thrown out by a comical margin. Ryan Adams grounded out and that was the end of that. In all, the O's were 2-10 with RISP today. At this point, the O's were down 6-5 and it was a battle of the bullpens.
Some days six runs is enough, even when considering the Orioles have the worst ERA in MLB. Today was not one of those days. Tommy Hunter did the Tommy Hunter thing, which is to say he only walked one batter, but gave up nine hits, with six runs scoring (five earned) in six innings pitched. Hunter is another pitcher who's probably not much helped by pitching in front of the worst defense in MLB, although from my vantage point at Camden Yards today, his bigger problem was throwing a bunch of fat, hittable pitches.
In fairness to Hunter, a tweet by Dan Connolly of the Sun after the game indicated that Hunter was vomiting after the game, went to the hospital and won't be traveling with the team to Tampa. So maybe for today he had an excuse, not that we Orioles fans are supremely interested in the latest excuse on the route to a 14th consecutive losing season.
For all that Hunter sucked, the game was at one time tied 6-6. The tying run for the Orioles scored on a bases-loaded groundout by Guerrero in the bottom of the 7th. That was Robert Andino, who led off the inning with a double. I was just glad Vlad didn't GIDP, and you probably were too. Then the top of the 8th happened. Kelly Johnson walked and Brett Lawrie homered off Willie Eyre. We've sure never seen this before: a parade of bullpen scrubs in August and September, castoffs from other teams who inexplicably find homes for two months in Orioles uniforms.
Let's talk about Lawrie for a second. After today he has 101 major league plate appearances. He is 21 years old. He's batting .340/.392/.713 with seven home runs. To be sure, this is a small sample size. But I wonder, not for the first time, what it's like to see a highly-touted prospect come up and be exactly what you thought they could be (or better), even if only for a month. Will we ever know? Probably not.
We get the Hunters of the world, who've already worn out their welcome with one team and maybe will be rejuvenated by a change of scenery and a better, more regular opportunity, or at least that's what we talk ourselves into, because we're fans of a terrible team and that's all we've got. That's why those players are trade bait by contenders. They get what they want and we get 100 loss seasons, and then just for good measure we get Pedro Strop, whose name apparently rhymes with "rope" - a fact I find very disappointing because now we can't say "Strop, drop and roll." Strop has scattered 27.1 IP over three seasons of MLB appearances and he has walked 22 batters in that time. I'm sure coming to Baltimore's bullpen will be just the thing to fix his control problems.