Coming off of back-to-back triumphs against a couple of strong Mariners starters in Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez, the Orioles were due for a letdown game. They wouldn't want to disappoint the people by not delivering what they've come to expect. Against the 85 mph junkball of Chris Young, they mustered two hits in seven innings as part of a 3-for-30 effort on the day. They lost, 4-3, when David Lough was thrown out trying to steal second, because of course they did.
It's one of those games where you look at the one run margin and you might think that this was a close game. That's simply not the case, as the Orioles were essentially gifted all three of the runs they actually managed to score. None of the runs were earned, with two coming as a result of an error by Kyle Seager and the third because Dustin Ackley threw to home instead of second. Were it not for these dopey plays by Seattle in the eighth, the Orioles would have been shut out.
Few are the games you will win if you bat .100 for the whole game. It's understandable when they bat poorly against pitchers like Iwakuma and Hernandez, which they absolutely did, but they got enough of the lucky hits and big swings to make it work with a solid pitching performance. The Orioles did even worse today than the last two nights, wasting another golden opportunity to put more distance between them and the rest of the division.
After last night, they were batting .182 over their previous five games, somehow managing to win four of them, but that string of luck could not continue. Eventually, a starter would struggle, because this is a rotation full of the continually-demoted Kevin Gausman and then back-end arms. Bud Norris, the starter on Saturday afternoon, slipped up.
Nearly all of Seattle's damage was done in the third inning when a command-challenged Norris left the wrong pitches in the wrong places and ended up dealing with runners on second and third with one out and Robinson Cano due up. O's manager Buck Showalter opted to intentionally walk Cano to set up a double play or at least create a force at home. No one knows why.
Norris got to a 1-2 count on the next batter, Kendrys Morales, before throwing a pitch inside that Morales swung at even as it hit him in his back shin. That is what you would call a strikeout if either the home plate umpire or third base umpire had been paying attention; instead, the hit batsman forced in a run. As the kids say, I ain't even mad, though, because Norris gave up a couple of singles that would have easily scored the three runners on base even without the HBP.
The O's were even gifted the end of the inning on a Mariners TOOTBLAN (thrown out on the basepaths like a nincompoop) when, after a Logan Morrison single to left was bobbled by Nelson Cruz, the Mariners ended up with one runner backtracking to third as another runner ran from second to third. That's a minus. The Mariners ran themselves out of the inning, though they had taken a 3-0 lead before they did so.
Seattle scored their fourth run on back-to-back doubles by Ackley and Cano in the fifth inning, which also came off Norris. The O's starter was done after five innings, giving up four runs on six hits and three walks while striking out six. That's not going to work on most days.
Another thing that isn't going to work on most days is when non-Delmon Young batters hit .000 until there's two outs in the eighth inning. That's exactly what happened to the Orioles on Saturday, though. Their two hits were both by Young until an RBI single from J.J. Hardy drove in the O's third run in the eighth - the run that, if Ackley had thrown to the right base, would have never scored because Chris Davis would have still been on first base instead of second.
Wannabe archer Fernando Rodney came on for the ninth to close out the game, demonstrating his firm resolve to complete this task by walking pinch-hitter Lough. Seriously, if you walk David Lough, you've done something very wrong. But this is the Orioles, who, even while they're good, are prone to bouts of foolish behavior, to wit: the next batter, Nick Markakis proceeded to swing at the first pitch and flew out harmlessly, never even giving Lough a chance to move himself up a base.
With two outs and Young at the plate, Lough at last took his shot to get into scoring position. This was ill-advised, as whatever he thought he'd gleaned about Rodney's delivery was wrong. Lough took off running before Rodney threw his pitch, enough to where Rodney could step off the rubber and toss the ball to second for Lough to be tagged out. That was the end of the game.
Hope still lives for the O's to pull off an above-.500 record for this ten game west coast trip, if they can rally behind Miguel Gonzalez on Sunday afternoon starting at 4:10 Eastern. They'll be pitted against Seattle starter Roenis Elias, who has a 4.41 ERA on the season, and therefore will likely pitch a complete game shutout. Well, when the road trip started, many of us told ourselves we'd be happy with 5-5. The Orioles look determined to put that to the test. They won the hard ones. Can they take one of the gimmes?