Sometimes, pitching is about surviving when you don't have your best stuff. Other times, there is no survival, only the smoking crater on the mound where once stood a man, recognizable as something that used to be human only by DNA testing. Sunday afternoon, the Orioles played the latter sort of game. Kevin Gausman did not have a good day. Neither did Ryan Webb. The Orioles were blown out of the stadium in the rubber match of their series with the Athletics, falling 10-2.
You knew it was going to be one of those games from the very first inning. The O's were down 2-0 before an out had been recorded thanks to a John Jaso RBI triple that scored Coco Crisp, who led off with a single. Jaso scored on a wild pitch, because in Oakland, the ball rolls a long way.
As the innings lurched along, Gausman's struggle continued. He faced 23 batters in the game, which was only good for four innings plus one batter in the fifth. Of those 23 batters, he threw a strike on the first pitch to only eight of them. It was as bad as it sounds. He walked "only" two while striking out six, but he also gave up nine hits and threw 88 pitches in those four-plus innings. The Oakland hitters were patient enough to lay off the junk and square up on the meatballs. Funny how that works out.
Oakland starter Sonny Gray, on the other hand, showed exactly how you should pitch. He had strikes on the first pitch to 18/25 batters and didn't give up a hit until the fifth inning, just long enough that his dominance was starting to make you nervous about a no-hitter. That didn't happen but it was enough that they made us think about it. J.J. Hardy broke up the party with a double over the head of center fielder Coco Crisp in the fifth inning, driving in Chris Davis, who'd walked.
That cut the Oakland lead to 4-1, but it never felt close. The O's only got three hits all day.
Gray finished the day by pitching 6.2 innings in which he only gave up two hits and two walks, striking out eight in the process. Of the two runs he surrendered, only one was earned, because Athletics fielders got sloppy once the game turned into blowout territory. They committed three errors, none of which mattered, really. The Orioles stunk and made little of the few chances they got, finishing 1-9 with runners in scoring position for the game.
The O's were not without their own brain farts in the field. In the third inning, Josh Donaldson hit a fly ball to center field with a man on third base and one out. Adam Jones caught the ball and started trotting towards the dugout as if the inning was over. The runner, Yoenis Cespedes, probably would have scored easily on the deep fly ball regardless. It was a boneheaded play, for sure, but not one that mattered.
Later, in the fifth inning, Manny Machado threw away a ball that turned into a run-scoring two-base error because Oakland foul territory is stupid.
Webb came in to pitch the sixth inning and could not finish it. He only got two outs but gave up three runs on four hits. He sucked, plain and simple. By then, the score was 10-1, making what was a laugher even more of one.
In garbage time, Brian Matusz pitched 1.1 scoreless innings, while Preston Guilmet threw a scoreless eighth. Oakland summoned Eric O'Flaherty for four scoreless outs, while Sean Doolittle polished off the O's in the ninth. I'm sure their moms were all very proud.
Gausman took the loss, falling to 4-3 on the year, while Gray picked up the win to improve his record to 11-3.
Every other team in the division won on Sunday, so the Orioles fall back closer to the pack. Their lead over both New York and Toronto is now three games, and even the last place Boston and Tampa Bay teams are looking a little frisky with 4-5 game winning streaks as they sit 7.5 games back.
The Orioles next travel to Anaheim, where they will play a three-game set against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Orange County, California, United States of America, Earth starting on Monday night at 10:05 Eastern. Bud Norris starts the opening game of the series against a bearded creature from Michigan known as Matt Shoemaker. The Angels are winners of eight of their last ten games. Hopefully the Orioles got their rest over the All-Star Game, because there is none to be found on this West Coast trip.