When your starting pitcher doesn't finish the fifth inning, nothing good can happen. That necessitates the deployment of middle relievers, who, if they were any good, would not be middle relievers. Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez couldn't finish the fifth, and as a result, there were appearances by Evan Meek and Brian Matusz in the game, both of whom were terrible. Meek and Matusz turned what was an agonizing back-and-forth game into an agonizing blowout as the Orioles lost to the Rays, 12-7.
This is the second straight game where the Orioles, presented with an opportunity to gain ground with a loss by the first place Blue Jays, have completely bombed the chance in their own game. They remain 1.5 games back of the division lead despite a lukewarm record of 42-39 at the halfway point of the season. They're close and their competition is underwhelming, but it's hard to imagine this team going anywhere positive for long when they're so prone to looking like this.
As is often the case, the Orioles let you know what kind of game it was going to be from the very first batter. Gonzalez issued a walk to Desmond Jennings to lead off the game. He scored before an out was recorded when Ben Zobrist followed with a double. Zobrist was actually thrown out trying to stretch that into a triple, probably because it worked for him on Saturday when Nick Markakis took his time getting to a ball in the corner. Markakis got him back on Sunday.
Gonzalez gave up a double to Matt Joyce but no further damage in the first. Later, in the third, Joyce would hit a solo home run, part of what ended up being a 5-for-5 day for Joyce. It was his first home run since May 11. Joyce homered again later in the game, because Matusz was worthless today, unable to get out lefties or righties.
After Joyce's third inning homer, the score was only 2-0 Rays, but it was one of those bleak 2-0 games that felt worse than it was. The Orioles tried to pull back the lead and did so for a short time. The O's got on the board in the bottom of the third with an RBI single by Steve Pearce, and they took a 3-2 lead an inning later when Manny Machado blasted a ball into the right field seats for his seventh home run of the year. It's awful unfortunate he's going to get suspended right after heating up.
The lead didn't last because the Orioles didn't get a shutdown inning from Gonzalez. He gave up a home run to Zobrist to tie the game at 3 and did not survive that inning. After two singles and a walk loaded the bases, Gonzalez was relieved by Meek, who ended the problem in the fifth by striking out Logan Forsythe. Unfortunately for the Orioles, Meek was not so good in the sixth.
Just to tease us all, the O's even took the lead again in the bottom of the fifth when Markakis manufactured himself a run. He led off with a single, stole second as Pearce struck out (getting a little assist as Jose Molina's hand collided with Steve Pearce's backswing while he tried to throw), moved up to third on a groundout and scored on a Molina passed ball. That gave them a 4-3 lead. They didn't score again. The Rays, uh... did.
Meek blew the lead within two batters, giving up a solo home run to Kevin Kiermaier, then gave the Rays the lead following a Zobrist double and a Joyce RBI single. After an intentional walk to Evan Longoria, Meek was pulled for Matusz with the lefty James Loney coming up to the plate.
That's a good theory that would have worked out a lot better if Matusz was able to display anything resembling major league talent on Sunday. He gave up a double to Loney, then another double to Brandon Guyer, then, just for fun, a home run to Forsythe, his second in the last two days. Before yesterday, Forsythe had no home runs. Suddenly, a 4-3 lead went to a 5-4 deficit, which quickly escalated into a 10-4 quagmire.
Since Matusz had turned the game into a lost cause, manager Buck Showalter left him out there for the seventh and the eighth to spare the rest of the bullpen. He gave up that second home run to Joyce in the seventh to kick the Orioles further into the hole, now down 12-4. Matusz allowed five runs on seven hits in 2.1 innings, plus the two inherited runners he let score. He's now sporting a 5.16 ERA and sometimes can't even be relied upon as a LOOGY. You have to figure his time as an Oriole is running out in a hurry.
With the Orioles getting blown out, one or two displays of offensive ineptitude are hardly worth even noting, but they were frustrating at the time, before the game looked like a total loss. In particular, in the third inning, the Orioles had a runner thrown out at the plate on such an awful send of the variety that makes you wonder if any random person from the stands could be a better third base coach.
Nick Hundley, on first base after a single, was sent home on a Markakis double and thrown out by 15-20 feet. Even a fast runner would have been out. This deprived the Orioles of a chance to have second and third with one out. They got a run anyway thanks to Pearce singling in Markakis. This rally could have been more. Bobby Dickerson snuffed it out before it could get rolling. It's not the first time it's happened and it probably won't be the last time.
But that's not why they lost, just like Chris Davis deciding to bunt after Nelson Cruz led off the second with a single isn't why they lost. They lost because Gonzalez allowed three runs in 4.2 innings, Meek allowed four runs in one inning, and Matusz allowed five in 2.1 innings. Way to put on a good show for the home crowd, guys. They fell to a 1-6 record on home Sunday games this year and have a 19-21 home record in all.
Ryan Flaherty, a garbage time sub at shortstop, hit an FUHR off Cesar Ramos with two men on base in the ninth to force everyone who pre-wrote a losing recap of the game to change all of the times they wrote 12-4 to 12-7.
Another floundering team, Texas, comes to Baltimore starting on Monday for a four game series. Hopefully the Orioles can put in a better performance against those guys. The first game of the series will be started by Ubaldo Jimenez, with Nick Tepesch starting for Texas in the 7:05 game.