Man, that Nelson Cruz is something, isn't he?
The Orioles starters don't really do well these days, so when Bud Norris takes the game into the sixth inning while giving up four runs, I feel like that is a cause for ... not celebration exactly, but semi-contentedness. Call that pathetic or settling for less, but I feel it's the reality we face as fans who control nothing about the Orioles yet follow along on their roller coaster ride of a season.
Anyway, that's a roundabout way of saying that I don't think tonight's loss was on Norris so much as it was on the bullpen and (of course) the offense. Norris didn't exactly do his job, but the offense came up short in several high-leverage spots and two relievers compounded things by not pitching well.
I will say that Norris had trouble finding the strike zone tonight and it bit him. In the first, he walked Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy before allowing an RBI single to Carlos Gomez. In the second, he walked Khris Davis to lead off the inning and surrendered a double to Lyle Overbay. Yovani Gallardo struck out and Jean Segura lined out to Chris Davis, who made a fantastic acrobatic leap to snare the ball, but Ryan Braun smoked a double down the right-field line to bring both runners home.
By the time the second inning ended, Norris had already thrown 50 pitches. So it didn't help when he hit Gomez to start the third. Gomez stole second, moved to third on a flyout by Mark Reynolds, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Scooter Gennett. Meanwhile the O's mustered just two hits through the sixth, both solo homers by Nelson Cruz. The team did show some patience, walking five times (two by Nick Hundley, who deserves some credit), but did not otherwise do anything of note.
You could say the Orioles had a great chance to score in the fourth, but they really didn't. With two outs, Cruz walked, J.J. Hardy walked, and then Nick Hundley walked to load the bases. But the next batter was Jonathan Schoop, who has terrible plate discipline, so in reality the chances of them scoring weren’t that great. Schoop didn’t look silly swinging the bat but he did ground out to end the inning.
At the end of six, the score was 4-2 Brewers. The Orioles got one back in the seventh and threatened to get more but failed in another frustrating fashion. After Schoop grounded out and Delmon Young, hitting in the pitcher’s spot, struck out, Nick Markakis doubled into the right field corner. Brandon Kintzler replaced Gallardo on the mound and gave up an RBI single to Manny Machado as well as a single to Adam Jones.
Will Smith came in to face Chris Davis with two on and two out and promptly threw the ball into center field trying to pick off Machado. Both runners advanced and it looked like the O’s might tie the game or even take the lead. But Davis whiffed, as he often does, and the inning was over. No biggie, it was only the most important plate appearance in the game.
Brad Brach relieved Norris in the seventh and although he kept runs off the board, he struggled to put hitters away. Those struggles broke through in the 8th when Carlos Gomez doubled and Mark Reynolds singled to put runners on the corners. Buck decided to bring in Brian Matusz to face the lefty Scooter Gennett, but Ron Roenicke countered with Rickie Weeks, who singled on the first pitch he saw to score Gomez. Khris Davis then slammed a three-run shot to bring everyone home, and just like that it was 8-3 Brewers. Except for a couple singles by the Orioles in the top of the 9th, that was the game.
The loss seals the series L for the Orioles and sends them to 26-25 while Milwaukee climbs to 32-22. The Orioles fly to Houston where Ubaldo Jimenez will open the series against Brad Peacock.