Tonight's loss was the kind that hurts. As Orioles fans we've seen every kind of loss there is. We're used to it, we've resigned ourselves to it. But no matter how many times we see a loss like this one, it always hurts a little more than the others.
Jeremy Guthrie was not at his best tonight, but after a meltdown in the second inning in which he gave up four runs on two home runs, two doubles, and a single, Guthrie settled down and ultimately pitched seven innings. He put his team in a hole, for sure, but he got himself together and pitched long enough that the offense had a chance to put together a comeback.
When Guthrie struck out Alexei Ramirez to end the second inning, it was the first of ten batters in a row retired before Paul Konerko reached on Josh Bell's error in the sixth. In the meantime, the Orioles had come up with three runs to make it a 4-3 game. Matt Wieters started the third inning with a double, and he'd come around to score on a single by Bell. Wieters had a great day with a single, two doubles, and a walk. After J.J. Hardy doubled to move Bell to third, Nick Markakis hit a sacrifice fly to make it a two-run game.
Hardy, in his first game back after hurting his ankle, made the most of his night. He was in the middle of the scoring in the fifth inning as well. With Robert Andino and Bell on base, Hardy doubled again. Andino scored, but Bell and Hardy were stranded as Markakis and Adam Jones couldn't come through in the clutch. It was a tough night at the plate for both Nick and Adam, but especially Adam. He went 0-for-5 with two strikeouts and left four men on base.
So, back to Josh Bell allowing Konerko to reach on an error. Josh Bell just looks totally lost at third base. The errors he's making are little-league style. It's embarrassing. Konerko is playing injured, and when Carlos Quentin followed the error with a single to left, Konerko tried to hobble to third but was thrown out by Nolan Reimold. Guthrie couldn't get out of it, though, as Quentin scored on a single (an unearned run) to make it a 5-3 score.
The O's went down in order in the sixth, but after a 1-2-3 top of the seventh from Guthrie to end his day, they finally took the lead. Leading off the inning again, Wieters hit his 19th double of the year and 2nd of the game. Andino tried to bunt him to third, but it wasn't good enough to safely advance the sloth-like Wieters. The White Sox had an easy play at third, but in a lucky break the ball popped out of third baseman Brent Morel's glove. That put two runners on with no outs for Hardy, and J.J. made them pay for their error. He hit his 20th home run of the year to left field, and it wasn't a cheapie. Just like that the Orioles were back on top, 6-5.
Alas, it wasn't over. Guthrie gave way to Jim Johnson, who is, in my opinion, being overused. I know that it doesn't seem like there are many options in the bullpen these days, but Johnson leads the American League in innings pitched by a relief pitcher. After looking very sharp for most of the season, he's had his troubles of late, including tonight.
Of course, he wasn't helped out by his defense. With one out, Johnson walked the gimpy Konerko, who was replaced by Brent Lillibridge. Lillibridge took off from first on Johnson's second pitch, a pitch that Quentin hit into center field for a single. With runners on the corners, A.J. Pierzynski flied out to center, and Lillibridge scored from third. Adam Jones not only missed the cutoff man on the play trying to get Lillibridge (who is, incidentally, very fast), but he threw the ball so far off the mark the Quentin easily moved up to second base. To borrow from a wise man, Adam needs to start using his head (the lump three feet above his ass).
With Quentin on second as the go-ahead run, Alex Rios hit a ball to the left side. MLB.com's play-by-play describes it as, "Alex Rios singles on a sharp ground ball to left fielder Nolan Reimold." What actually happened was that Bell botched another play at third base. The ball WAS hit sharply, but Bell should have made the play. It went right past his glove. Quentin, who never should have been on second base, scored easily on the single that should have been a ground out. With that, the lead was blown, the comeback for naught.
The Orioles did get two runners on with one out in the bottom of the 8th, but Andino and Bell at the bottom of the lineup couldn't do anything with them. There was no such drama in the 9th inning as White Sox closer Sergio Santos struck out Hardy, Markakis, and Jones to end the game.
I know you can't blame a loss on any one person, but Josh Bell has to take a large chunk of the blame tonight. He just cannot play major-league caliber defense at third. When a player has me longing to see Mark Reynolds taking grounders at third, he shouldn't be on the field. Chris Davis should return tomorrow, which will force Bell out of the lineup. Rumblings are the Davis might play third because the Orioles are happy with Reynolds at first, so it's entirely possible we'll see even more atrocious baseball tomorrow.