In the history of mankind, there are certain great masterworks of art that all recognize are among the best of their kind to ever be created. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. The Mona Lisa. Michelangelo's sculpture of David. These are beautiful works, things that validate the capability of humans to do lasting good for this world.
Imagine if someone took the stage during a performance of the Ninth and proceeded to accompany it with the most disgusting flatulence and belching that the human body can produce. Imagine if someone took a Sharpie and drew a crude representation of genitals on the Mona Lisa. Imagine if they just dropped their trousers and unloaded a steaming dump on David's feet. That was Tommy Hunter tonight.
Not only was he terrible, but he was terrible in such a way that he ruined a masterpiece, an absolute gem. His job is to come in and get three outs and end the game. Instead, he laid out the sticks of dynamite, armed them, and pressed the plunger. Tommy went boom not once but twice, hurtling the Orioles to a 4-1 deficit almost in the blink of an eye. He destroyed something beautiful, took what would have been a great story and rewrote it so that the glory will never be.
The Orioles came in to the bottom of the ninth inning clinging to a 1-0 lead. The 8-9-1 hitters were due up for the Tigers. Because he's Hunter and he doesn't do 1-2-3 innings, he banished hope of that right away by giving up a leadoff single to Tigers catcher Alex Avila that dribbled down the left field line to beat the shift. Pinch runner Rajai Davis tested the arm of Caleb Joseph on a stolen base that was initially called an out but was overturned after a 2:18 replay. For my part, I didn't see any video evidence that Davis was safe, but it was very close either way. Some thought that Davis may have come off the bag in the slide, but if he did, the umpires in New York did not see it.
That put the tying run in scoring position with none out. Hunter induced a weak line drive from pinch hitter Don Kelly and an easy fly ball from Ian Kinsler. Series nemesis Torii Hunter came to the plate. Though Hunter got him to two strikes, he ended up walking Hunter to bring up one of the game's most dangerous hitters in Miguel Cabrera. You know how this ends.
For good measure, Hunter went on to give up a solo home run to Victor Martinez, a ball that landed on Eutaw Street. This was the first Eutaw home run for a Tigers player since Mickey Tettleton hit one on April 20, 1992. It is May 13 and the Orioles "closer" - he was tied for the AL lead with 11 saves heading into tonight - is now sporting a 6.60 ERA. He has yet to record a 1-2-3 inning and has done nothing to inspire any confidence that he deserves the task he continually receives.
What did he ruin? This was supposed to be Joseph's night. All the signs were there. The veteran minor leaguer, who finally got a call to the big leagues after seven years and had looked out of his depth so far, had a game that should never be forgotten. He finally got his first career hit in the big leagues, prompting a standing ovation from the Camden Yards crowd. He cut down Tigers on the basepaths all night, getting three caught stealing and throwing out another who tried to advance on a ball in the dirt. These were dramatic outs at key points in the game that fired up the announced crowd of 29,950 on Tuesday night.
It was Ubaldo Jimenez's night too, and that was also taken from us. Jimenez, now that it is no longer April, is looking something like the pitcher who convinced Dan Duquette that it was worth signing him to a $50 million contract prior to this season. Jimenez took a potent Tigers lineup and held them scoreless over seven innings. It was not luck that kept them scoreless. The Tigers only had three hits off Jimenez, along with two walks. He struck out seven and had six groundouts.
Jimenez went through those seven innings in under 100 pitches, throwing only 97 before he was removed for Darren O'Day in the eighth inning. He has brought his ERA down to 4.02 for the season and has turned in a solid string of starts since May began, pitching 19.2 innings while only allowing one earned run in three starts in the month.
They needed a brilliant outing from Jimenez because the Orioles offense was once again nearly nonexistent. They scored one lone run in the first inning on a rope from Adam Jones that barely cleared the left field fence. Barely is enough and it staked the Orioles to a 1-0 lead. The home run was Jones' fifth of the year and extended his hitting streak to eight straight games, now the highest on the team with Nick Markakis having lost his 18-game streak.
The Orioles did not score for the rest of the night, not off Tigers starter Drew Smyly - who's no slouch, sporting a 2.70 ERA - and not off relievers Justin Miller and Joe Nathan. Their best chances came off Smyly. However, the bottom of the lineup wasted a leadoff double by Nelson Cruz in the second inning, and the duo of Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy failed to capitalize on what became a bases-loaded, two-out situation in the third.
Manny Machado and Jones had back-to-back one-out singles in the third inning. This would have been a good time for last year's power king, Davis, to do something good. He struck out, one of two he had on the night as part of an 0-4. Cruz followed with a two-out walk to load the bases for Hardy, who hit one of his four mile-high, completely non-threatening fly balls. No one on the team had a hit with runners in scoring position tonight, but Hardy was the only one to have a bite at the apple twice and miss twice. He is now batting .255/.274/.309 for the season.
After the third inning, the Orioles only had three more baserunners for the rest of the game, none of which came in the same inning. You aren't going to win many baseball games when you only score one run, but they were in position to do just that tonight until Hunter happened.
The Orioles have now lost three straight games, a streak they will carry over into Wednesday's 12:35 start time, where they will face Justin Verlander. Kevin Gausman will be called up to the O's to make his first MLB start of the season on three days rest. No one knows why, but hopefully it works out.