Tonight was Zach Britton's shortest and worst outing of the season, as he gave up seven runs in just five innings. His second worst came, unfortunately, just five days ago. It looks like the league has caught up with Britton and now it's up to him to adjust.
Britton pitched a great first inning, needing just ten pitches to retire the side. It was an inning that had me all, "Yeah, it's Zach Britton Day, woo!" Sadly, the rest of the game wasn't so happy.
Juan Rivera, who is batting cleanup for the Blue Jays despite being awful (his hitting line coming into the game was .235/.308/.348), started the second inning with a single. J.P. Arencibia followed that with a ground ball to third base that Mark Reynolds gave the Roger Dorn treatment (aka, some of that olé B.S.) and it went into left field. The play was scored an error on Reynolds, his eleventh on the year, and the Blue Jays were in business with runners on first and second. Aaron Hill then singled up the middle to score Rivera, and after an Edwin Encarncion double play gave the Jays two outs and a runner at third, Britton threw a wild pitch to plate the second run. Rajai Davis then doubled to right field but Jayson Nix popped out to end the inning (on a pop up that first baseman Luke Scott nearly dropped at the last second).
Yunel Escobar started the top of the third with a double...hey! That's not what we talked about, Zach! That brought old friend Corey Patterson to the plate, and thank goodness we know he can't hit. For some reason Corey bunted Escobar to third, and he managed to do it without falling on his face. That brought the dangerous Jose Bautista to the plate, and Britton elected to intentionally walk him. That didn't save him from a run, as Rivera plated Escobar to make the score 3-0. Well, that's not so bad. Not insurmountable.
Britton returned to form in the fourth with a 1-2-3, nine-pitch inning, but then things got ugly in the fifth. After striking out Nix, Britton walked Escobar. Corey then did what we all expected by striking out, and with two outs Bautista lined a single to left )knowing what we know about that guy, a single didn't seem so bad). Zach then threw another wild pitch and walked Rivera. He had lost it. But all he needed to do was get the final out and everything would be fine.
Everything was not fine. Britton worked fellow rookie Arencibia to a 2-2 count, then threw a low fastball that Arencibia golfed over the left field wall for a grand slam and the nail in Britton's coffin. Sigh. Not really the way I imagined things going tonight. Britton finished the inning, but he didn't return for the sixth.
And how were the Orioles faring against reliever-turned-starter Carlos Villanueva? Not well. They didn't even manage a hit against him until the bottom of the fifth inning, when J.J. Hardy singled with no outs. In fact, the first four innings were so uneventful that I'm not going to bother talking about them. So, my boy James Jerry came to bat in the bottom of the fifth inning and said, "Wait, Carlos Villanueva has a no-hitter through four? No." and he singled sharply up the middle. The next two batters, Scott and Reynolds, were lame, but 9th-place batter Robert Andino singled to left field. Corey fielded the ball without falling down, but couldn't stop Hardy from scoring the O's first run of the night.
With two down and Andino on second, the Orioles caught a break. Felix Pie hit a ground ball to third base that Jays' 3B Nix got into position to field, but the the ball hit squarely on the side of the base and hopped away. Felix reached first base safely and the Orioles were still in business. Adam Jones smoked the first pitch he saw to left field, knocking in Andino. Then sad-sack Nick Markakis flew out to center to end the inning.
The O's tried to add to their total in the sixth inning against the Jays' bullpen, but were unsuccessful. Vladimir Guerrero singled with no outs, then after a Matt Wieters fly out, Hardy hit a pop up to center that somehow fell between the second baseman, center fielder, and right fielder. Vlad scooted to second, then both runners moved up on a passed ball. Scott, who looks miserable at the plate, struck out, then Mark Reynolds came to the plate. Let's go Mark! We were promised home runs! He did not hit a home run, but he did take a walk. Acceptable. That loaded the bases with two down for Andino. Andino grounded out. Oh, Robert.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Accardo had relieved Britton in the sixth inning, and he turned in two innings in which he allowed one run (because the Jays hadn't scored enough). Chris Jakubauskas took over in the eighth inning and pitched the final two innings without incident.
Down by six runs in the eighth inning, Hardy continued to impress the Birdland faithful. After a single by Wieters, Hardy drilled a ball to left field for his fourth home run of the year. Hardy's four home runs have come in twenty-eight games. For comparison's sake, Markakis has four in fifty-three games. Sad panda.
That cut the lead to four, but it wasn't enough. Ryan Adams pinch hit for Felix Pie to start the ninth, who singled. Jones, who already had two hits, this time only had a double play ball in him. That brought up the gloomy Markakis, who grounded out to end the game.