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Orioles 2, Angels 3: Doomed by the bullpen

Brian Matusz walked in the go-ahead run as the Orioles fell to the Angels 3-2.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles came into tonight's game looking to sweep the Angels on the road, which would have been an impressive feat given how strong the latter team has been this year. The low-scoring game was tense throughout. Starter Chris Tillman kept the Angels off the scoreboard most of the night while Angels starter Jered Weaver did the same to the Orioles. Ultimately, the game turned on a bloop single and a couple of walks by the bullpen.

Tillman worked into and out of trouble during his six inning on the mond. The Angels picked up five hits and two walks against him, along with a hit batter, but could only score in the first inning when Albert Pujols hit a long single to deep right field that scored a speedy Mike Trout. They left runners on second and third in that inning, runners on first and second in the second inning, a runner on second in the third, and runners on second and third in the sixth.

The Orioles hitters didn’t do nearly as much, but they got some knocks when it counted. Down 1-0 in the top of the third with one out, Ryan Flaherty knocked a ground rule double. He tagged and advanced to third on a Nick Hundley flyout, then scored when Nick Markakis poked a single past a diving Howie Kendrick.

In the top of the sixth, the Orioles took the lead. Nick Hundley fouled out and Nick Markakis grounded out, but David Lough singled for his first hit of the night. Jered Weaver, threw over to first several times, trying to keep Lough close, but threw a curveball at the wrong time and Lough motored into second base easily. It proved to be a great steal, as the next batter Adam Jones juuuuuust barely dunked a single into right field. With two outs, Lough was running on contact and scored to make it 2-1 Orioles.

Tillman finished his six innings of work and turned it over to the bullpen in the seventh. Tommy Hunter came in and got Kole Calhoun to fly out. He walked Trout, who took off for second on a hit-and-run, but Pujols grounded the ball right back to the mound. Hunter gloved it and fired to second to nail Trout and start the double play.

No such luck in the eighth, though. Josh Hamilton started with a bloop fly ball to shallow right field. It was within reach of Schoop, who was playing in the shift, but he didn’t get a good read on it and started off in the wrong direction. By the time he realized where the ball was going, he couldn’t get there and it fell for a single. The play proved costly when Erick Aybar smacked a line-drive double; Hamilton was running all the way and scored easily to tie the game at 2. Hunter then struck out Howie Kendrick and David Freese on some nasty curveballs, although Aybar stole third while Freese was at the plate.

With two down and the go-ahead run on third, Buck Showalter elected to walk left-handed hitter Efran Navarro. Although he owns a .346 career wOBA and bats left-handed, Navarro has 82 PA in the big leagues and so I question Buck’s decision to issue the pass here. At any rate, it backfired when Hunter walked the right-handed Chris Ianetta, the Angels’ #9 hitter. That loaded the bases for lefty Kole Calhoun.

Whom do you bring in when you need a left-handed hitter retired? Brian Matusz, that’s who. But Matusz couldn’t find the zone tonight. He walked Calhoun to bring in the go-ahead run and make it 3-2 Angels. Then all of a sudden the best player in baseball was standing at the plate with the bases loaded in a one-run game. But Ryan Webb got Mike Trout to fly out harmlessly to left field.

It was a brand-new ballgame, only this time the Orioles were on the short end of it. They went down quietly against new Angels closer Huston Street, with only Chris Davis managing to get on base via a walk. What else ended the game but a swinging strikeout by Jonathan Schoop.

Although they did win the series, the loss drops the Orioles to 55-45 and reduces their lead over the Yankees and Blue Jays to three games. The Angels move to 60-40, 1.5 games behind Oakland, although as I write this the A’s are up 9-5 on the Astros in the 8th.

The Orioles fly to Seattle tomorrow where Wei-Yin Chen will face Hisashi Iwakuma.