Some days it's just not your day. For the Orioles, many of those days are Sundays. That is the day where, for some unknown reason, they regress back into the Dave Trembley era of suckitude on Sundays. With a disappointing and ugly 8-3 loss to the Cardinals, the Orioles fell to 8-11 on Sunday on the year, with a 3-7 record at home on Sunday.
It was a winnable game for most of it, full of squandered opportunities. For a while, the Orioles were nickel and dimed to death. Though the Cardinals had 17 hits, only three of them were for extra bases, and the first 14 Cardinals hits - which spanned innings 1-7 - were singles. Cheap hits fell every which direction.
Orioles starter Kevin Gausman struggled to overcome the bad BABIP luck starting from the very first inning, when he managed to let the Cardinals load the bases with no one out despite no one ever really hitting the ball hard. He didn't exactly help out his own case, running up pitch counts with wasted pitches as he struggled with his command early. It's never a good sign when the manager is on the phone to the bullpen in the first inning.
Gausman escaped thanks to the curious decision of the Cardinals third base coach to send slow human being Matt Adams to tag from third to home on a routine line drive to center. He did not escape unscathed, though, as the Cards scored two runs, and Gausman threw so many pitches that his day was guaranteed to be abbreviated at best.
Valiantly, the Orioles fought back in their half of the first, perhaps taking advantage of the fact that Cardinals starter Lance Lynn was sitting on the bench through the 25 minute top of the first. Back-to-back base hits by Nick Markakis and Manny Machado gave them a promising scoring opportunity, but after Adam Jones hit a fielder's choice to erase Machado, they were only able to get one run out of it, which scored on a double from Nelson Cruz.
With men on second and third and only one out, Chris Davis turned in his first of many useless at-bats of the day, doing his standard routine of striking out while giving the appearance of having neither a clue nor a prayer as to what he was doing. This was not the last time. Davis was 0-3 with runners in scoring position on the day, 0-4 overall, and he now has the unenviable batting line trifecta of a batting average below .200, on base percentage below .300, and slugging percentage below .400.
It could have been a lot worse than a 2-1 deficit early on. Gausman, despite the challenges, held things together enough for a five and dive kind of start - eight hits, two walks, three runs over five innings, with six strikeouts. Though he threw more pitches than necessary, a lot of the hits were of the bad BABIP luck variety. Sometimes you ride that dragon and sometimes it eats you.
They were in the game for a while, though the final score suggests otherwise. The O's scored some runs through a few fluky plays of their own, including one that scored as a result of a wild pitch when Markakis was on third. Despite having Cruz at the plate, frantically waving him home, Markakis froze like a deer trapped in headlights. The ball rolled all the way into the Orioles dugout, giving Markakis home despite his reluctance to expend any effort in taking it.
Markakis drove in a run himself in the fifth inning, serving a seeing eye single from LOOGY Randy Choate past the infield to score Delmon Young. It was a good day at the plate for Markakis, who went 4-5.
Often a strength of the team, the bullpen did not hold the line on Sunday afternoon. All three relievers who came into the game allowed runs. T.J. McFarland gave up a run in the fifth inning. Andrew Miller surrendered a run in the eighth. It was still just 5-3 then, within striking distance, but in the top of the ninth, with closer Zach Britton on to get in some work after a pair of blowout wins, things fell apart. A single, a walk, then an elevated pitch to Peter Bourjos that turned into a three-run home run.
On the other side of the ledger, the Cardinals bullpen did not allow a run, with former Orioles minor leaguer Pat Neshek turning in an impressive two innings and Trevor Rosenthal finishing off the game with an easy ninth inning.
The most entertaining play of the game for Orioles fans may well have been when Buck Showalter got himself ejected for disputing the result of a replay challenge. In the seventh inning, with Jhonny Peralta standing on first, Jon Jay grounded a ball up the middle that shortstop Ryan Flaherty made an impressive dive to get. He flipped to Jonathan Schoop, who gloved the ball and dropped it on the transfer - or so the second base umpire ruled.
The Cardinals challenged the play and, despite what was inconclusive at best video evidence (to the eyes of this Orioles blogger) that Schoop never had control of the ball at any point, the umpires at the central office overruled the call on the field. Showalter came out, gesticulating animatedly towards the headset as if demanding to speak to the umpires in New York. He was promptly tossed. Replay has been a good thing on the whole, but sometimes it just leaves you scratching your head. There was nothing definitive about that.
It didn't end up mattering as the Cardinals did not take advantage of the gifted runner that inning.
In taking the loss, Gausman's record falls to 6-4 on the year. Lynn, who gave up three runs over 5.2 innings, was awarded the win, raising to a 12-8 mark.
It wasn't pretty as they went for the sweep, but still, the Orioles took two out of three games from an NL contender as their 26 game stretch against possible playoff teams rolled along this weekend. The O's are 7-3 over their last ten games and 15-8 since the All-Star Break. Coupled with a Yankees loss, the O's hold their lead over New York at six games. The Blue Jays triumphed in a 19 inning marathon over the Tigers, so they pull back to five games behind in the division.
There's no time to rest. The Yankees are coming into town for three games next, starting on Monday at 7:05. If the O's play poorly in that series, they'll let one of their competitors right back in the race. Bud Norris starts the series opener for the Orioles against Chris Capuano of New York.