If things were running well for the Orioles, one might be inclined to look at a game where the starter, Chris Tillman, never gave up an extra base hit and only surrendered two walks, and call it bad luck. Ten singles sprayed all over the field. That is surely BABIP bad luck. In this stretch of games, we are tired of hearing about bad luck. Maybe it was a lack of quality pitches. In any case, the singles led to five runs and a 5-4 defeat at the hands of the Yankees, ensuring a series loss as the O's lost their third game in a row.
As with nearly every loss, the game was there with the chance to be won. The Orioles jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning when Chris Davis did what he does: turned a routine fly ball into a home run. His 33rd of the season came on a fly to center that it looked like Brett Gardner would catch on the grass, then on the warning track, then at the fence, but it carried and carried and cleared the fence. Davis has now equaled both his home run and RBI totals (85 RBI) from last season, when he played 139 games. This was game 88 for the O's.
The lead went up to 3-0 in the second inning. Nolan Reimold hit an infield grounder that Yankees starter Andy Pettitte fielded off the mound and threw away. He was given a single and took second on the throwing error, then scored on an Alexi Casilla double. Hey, that's a runner in scoring position with only one out! Could they add on more runs? Of course not. What team do you think you're watching?
Handed that lead, Tillman came out in the bottom of the second inning and promptly walked Travis Hafner, who's batting .222. The potent combination of Zoilo Almonte, Lyle Overbay, and Luis Cruz all came through with singles, meaning the bases were loaded with one out. Almonte scored easily on a sacrifice fly to center. Overbay obliged the Orioles with a TOOTBLAN, getting thrown out at third base. Tillman would escape, that time, without further damage.
In both the third and fourth innings, the Orioles would lead off with a double. Manny Machado doubled in the third, his 39th of the season, but despite the O's 3-4-5 hitters coming up behind him, he'd end the inning without scoring. Particular demerits go to Adam Jones, for an absolutely awful at-bat that ended in a strikeout as he flailed at a pitch that was eye level in the opposite batters box.
Hardy's double in the fourth produced a run, at least. He took third on a Reimold sacrifice fly and was driven in by Taylor Teagarden one batter later. The inning ended as Teagarden was thrown out trying to steal second. Let's unpack this concept for a second. An inning ending on the backup catcher getting thrown out stealing is stupid. Video replay showed Teagarden was safe. "Well, Nick Markakis could just lead off the next inning," you might say, and whatever. Don't give up outs on low-percentage plays.
Markakis was the only Orioles starter to be hitless on the day.
Tillman gave up the lead in another storm of singles in the fifth inning. The .217-hitting Eduardo Nunez and the .239-hitting Chris Stewart each singled and were bunted over by Gardner. Ichiro Suzuki followed with one of his patented infield singles, scoring Nunez, and Robinson Cano added still another single, scoring Stewart and tying the game 4-4. Tillman got the next two batters, but again, the damage was done.
The hallmarks were all there for Tillman to five and dive, and with a pitch count in the high-90s, it would not have been a surprise if he was pulled to start the sixth. This was not the case. Was Buck Showalter trying to save his bullpen the work? Was he testing his starter's mettle? Whichever it was, the result was a failure, as Tillman, surprise, gave up a single, sacrifice bunt, single (run scored) and a walk - the last to that .239-hitting Stewart - to give up his fifth run and put himself on the hook for the loss.
Tillman's final line was 5.1 innings pitched, with ten hits and five runs (all earned), with three strikeouts to two walks. He has ten wins, but the Orioles needed him to pitch well today and he didn't. The loss lowers his record to 10-3.
For the Yankees, Pettitte pitched into the seventh, going 6.2 innings and doing a little better job of scattering nine hits, including the Davis home run and three doubles, with four runs allowed, three of which were earned, though the unearned run was a result of Pettitte's own error. He walked none - the Orioles now have the second-worst walk rate in MLB - and struck out four. Pettitte raised his record to 6-6.
Shawn Kelley got the last out of the seventh, and then it was the David Robertson and Mariano Rivera shutdown show. Each gave up a hit - Robertson to Jones, and Rivera to pinch-hitter Ryan Flaherty - but held the line and closed out the game with the 5-4 final score. The save was Rivera's 29th of the year, tying him for the MLB lead with Jim Johnson and others. Johnson has six blown saves and seven losses. Rivera has one blown save and one loss.
The loss drops the Orioles' record to 12-14 in one-run games. The clutch bullpen and timely hitting that fueled last year's success are not there for this year's Orioles. The sky has not fallen completely, as they're still eight games over .500 and should be respectable, but the loss drops them to six games back with Boston still to play on Saturday, and they now sit behind the Yankees in the standings, with the Rays just half a game back and still to play on Saturday.
After dropping the first two games of the series, the O's will try to avoid the sweep on Sunday afternoon. The original starter was going to be Phil Hughes (or as some yukster Yankee fans have taken to calling him, "Phil Lose"), but he has been pushed back a day. That means Hiroki Kuroda will start instead. Kuroda himself had been pushed back a couple of days due to a sore hip flexor, but the MRI was clean and he is fine enough to pitch Sunday. He'll be opposed by Jason Hammel in the 1:05 game, which will air on TBS nationally.