In the eighth inning of Saturday's game, when the Orioles offense finally showed up, the game became interesting. Before that, it was terrible. Make no mistake: though the Orioles "only" lost by a run to the Rays, a 5-4 game, there was little exciting or redeeming about the game. The answer to why the team can't break ahead in the standings is because of how they perform in games like this, where they have the opportunity to do so against the team with the worst record in the American League.
Former Oriole Erik Bedard has swiss cheese for a shoulder at this point in his career. He is virtually incapable of going beyond six innings in a game. Last season, as he pitched with the Astros, he was lifted in the midst of a no-hitter at about 90 pitches and later told reporters that he was fine with that because he had nothing left. His pitch count gets elevated because he walks a number of batters and labors before getting strikeouts.
Bedard started for the Rays on Saturday. Against a fastball that never once hit 90 on the radar gun and averaged 86, the Orioles offense... did nothing. They had no chance because Bedard was fully capable of using the Orioles' aggressive, hacking tendencies against them. Why do they do well against Cy Young candidates and have their strengths completely negated against the dregs of the league? That is the great question.
In the first inning, Steve Pearce doubled. The Orioles did not get another man in scoring position until the eighth inning of the game. A J.J. Hardy single was erased in the second by a Manny Machado double play. They went down 1-2-3 in four of the next five innings, and they were only spared the last one because Nick Markakis hit a solo home run that looked to be an FUHR in the sixth inning.
Bedard started the eighth inning. He had not gone more than six innings all season, and he'd gone less than six innings in 10 of his 13 starts before today. This is not the guy who should be starting the eighth inning against the Orioles. And yet, thanks to their woeful approach against his arsenal and inability to adjust to it until it was far too late, that's exactly what happened.
The eighth inning is when Bedard's tank was running on empty around 80 pitches. Hardy hit another single. The next batter was Machado, who continues to duck the start of his suspension for reasons unknown. He's making the most of it and he did so again in that spot, hitting a home run off the foul pole in left to pull the score back to a 5-3 deficit. That chased Bedard, finally, and got into a Rays bullpen that has been bad except for the very back of it.
The Orioles took advantage of that weakness with two base hits off of the man who they wanted to sign until he took their physical, Grant Balfour. He sports a 5.52 ERA after he gave up the fourth run of the game on Saturday, the run scoring after it was inherited by the fireballing lefty Jake McGee. Adam Jones poked an opposite field single to score Delmon Young from second with two outs, which brought the game to 5-4 with the tying run at third. Nelson Cruz hit a fly ball that would have scored the run with less than two outs, but alas, there were two outs.
What about the Orioles starter? Well, while Bedard had the longest outing of the season for him, Wei-Yin Chen had his own shortest outing of the season. He bombed out of the game after only 3.1 innings. You could tell it was going to be one of those days when he gave up a leadoff home run to the game's very first batter, Desmond Jennings. The next inning, after he gave up a single to .205 hitter Sean Rodriguez, Chen allowed the first home run of the season to Logan Forsythe, a guy who, after having three hits and a walk today, is batting .229/.276/.306.
The 3-0 deficit at that point might as well have been 10-0 with how the Orioles looked against Bedard. Not having outdone himself yet, Chen also allowed a two run home run to Kevin Kiermaier in the fourth inning, which is what chased him from the game having turned in a Five Runs All Earned performance in only 3.1 innings, which is actually kind of impressive and also sad. That five run deficit proved to be just one run too much for the late-arriving Orioles offense.
A six man rotation concept going on is even more strange when two of them have looked shaky lately and the Orioles keep jerking the best of the six between the minors and the majors.
McGee continued on into the ninth inning for a four out save. He was not in danger at any time, striking out Chris Davis in a way that made it look like he would strike out Davis 100 out of 100 times today. He also struck out Machado swinging to end the game, throwing a 77mph slider on the ninth pitch of the at-bat after he had pumped eight 97+ fastballs in there. That's a neat trick. Maybe someone on the Orioles could learn it.
The Orioles are now 1-2 in this four game series against the worst team in the AL. The best they can hope for is a split, if they win tomorrow. They had an opportunity to pull within a half game of the AL East lead after Toronto lost earlier in the game. The only opportunity they took was the one to sleep through seven innings of a game.
It's nice that the Orioles bullpen recorded another 5.2 scoreless innings, but taking much solace in that is loser talk. They should have won the game. It doesn't matter that they battled; the individual good things don't much matter either. The team lost. They deserved to lose.
They'll be back in action on Sunday at 1:35 to close out the series. Miguel Gonzalez starts for the Orioles against Alex Cobb of the Rays. They are giving away the 1954 replica hats if you want to go to the game. Just be prepared for them to disappoint you. It'll be easier that way.