There was a time where Wednesday afternoon's game looked promising. The promise was meager, because Jason Hammel was the starter and he never looked good, but he scraped by for much of the game. You might say he gutted out six innings where he didn't have his best stuff. Then the seventh inning came and the dark times arrived. Pedro Strop strode in from the bullpen and took the mound.
There was nothing, in recent game action, to make anyone except for an Angels fan feel good about Strop entering in a high-leverage situation. And it was a high-leverage situation, indeed: Hammel lost his command (what little he had today) and allowed a single and a walk to start the seventh. The Orioles held a 4-2 lead at this point in the game, meaning the go-ahead run was stepping to the plate. Strop would face that batter, Hank Conger, who'd already hit a Eutaw Street home run in the game.
Conger hit a Baltimore chop grounder that Strop leaped to try to field. The ball kicked off the top of his glove, hung high in the air, and he could not make a play once it got back to the ground. Bases loaded, none out, with the lackluster Erick Aybar stepping to the plate. There are several ways you know this might end. None of them are good.
Would it be back-to-back bases loaded walks? Wild pitches aplenty? A grand slam? It was a grand slam of sorts, but more of a Little League grand slam. Aybar tripled into the left-center gap. Off the bat, there was no way it was not a triple. The Angels would have the lead. The bases would clear. As the ball was relayed in to third, Ryan Flaherty, covering, could not corral the throw, and Aybar motored home. A 4-2 lead was, just like that, a 6-4 deficit.
Aybar's triple was the sixth bases-loaded triple of his career. He has more of these than any player in the American League in the past 50 years.
Not having emptied his can of gasoline onto the game enough, Strop waited one batter - got one out, just to tantalize us - before walking J.B. Shuck and giving up a home run to Albert Pujols. How does that even happen? Pujols does not look good, but he looked good today, with three hits, including his 11th home run of the year. Strop left to a chorus of boos from the Camden Yards faithful - the same crowd that had just given Hammel a standing ovation (not that he deserved one) for a six inning, seven hit, two walk performance. He went only a third of an inning, gave up three hits, a walk, four earned runs, and allowed two inherited runners to score.
Just between you and me, it's time to send him to the great DFA in the sky. We are in the middle of June. Strop has walked 15 batters in 19 innings. He has given up 18 hits including four home runs. That is a 1.833 WHIP, a 7.11 BB/9 and a 1.89 HR/9. He has a 7.58 ERA. He is out of options. They hid him in Norfolk for a couple of weeks with what was probably a phantom lower back strain.
Unless they can hide him with a similar phantom injury again, he needs to be gone. They cannot hide him in the bullpen, not with the innings these guys need to throw. He cannot appear in any kind of leverage situation. He was a great part of last year, but he is lost now. His time has run out.
Strop is not the sole responsible party for the loss, though he is the biggest one. Hammel was not sharp today. He survived, but he could have had a far worse day. And the Orioles hitters, though they managed ten hits and five runs on the day, were 0-7 with runners in scoring position. They could have had more, and it turned out that they needed more.
What is it about this team and ugly losses when they are going for the sweep? It seems like every game where they are trying to get the sweep is one of "those" games. Sometimes there are bright spots, sometimes there aren't, but they always find a way to lose. Today, that way was Strop.
Three O's hitters had multi-hit games, including Nate McLouth, who should have had his 23rd stolen base but was called out on a blown call at second base by Joe West, Manny Machado, who had a single and a double to extend his hitting streak to ten games, and Chris Davis, who hit his 21st home run of the season in the fourth inning, giving the Orioles a 3-2 lead at that point in the game. Adam Jones added a home run in the sixth, his 14th.
Every Oriole had a hit except for Flaherty and Taylor Teagarden, which is about what you would expect. Incidentally, these are the only two Orioles who played in today's game who have lower batting average, OBP, and SLG than Josh Hamilton.
Hammel never looked good, which also must be stressed. Starting with the first out of the game, with Mike Trout cracking a line drive to center for an out, they were hitting lasers all over the field, but enough of them were at fielders. It was enough, until the seventh, when he clearly lost it - seriously, who walks Brad Hawpe on four pitches? That was the second walk Hammel had issued to Hawpe in the game. Hawpe does not have a hit on the year.
The home run that Hammel surrendered to Conger in the third inning was the 69th Eutaw Street home run in Camden Yards history. 41 of those home runs have been hit by opponents and 28 by Orioles players. The last Angels player to hit a Eutaw Street home run was Lee Stevens on May 23, 1992.
Flaherty was intentionally walked in the game, which doesn't make anything any better, but it's still hilarious. Twice in the game, the Angels pitching coach had to come out to tell the pitcher how to pitch to Flaherty.
Jerome Williams received the win for the Angels, giving him a 5-2 record. He gave up nine hits, four runs, a walk, and four strikeouts in six innings. Strop took the loss for the Orioles, dropping his record to 0-3, though it feels like it must be more like 0-30.
The Orioles will have to quickly wash the bad taste of this game from their mouths. Division-leading Boston comes to town to start a four-game series on Thursday night. Kevin Gausman will take the mound against Felix Doubront in the 7:05pm game, unless the threatened storms currently in the forecast obliterate the entire Mid-Atlantic region and kill us all.