The Orioles played seven straight one-run games heading into Saturday night's contest against the Mariners. The streak had to end eventually, and end it did, with the Orioles on the wrong side of a 6-3 loss that featured 1-13 hitting with runners in scoring position.
Early in the game, things looked so much better, as they often do. Nick Markakis led off the game with a walk, followed by a Manny Machado double that left the O's with men on second and third and no one out before an out was recorded. They scored one lone run on an RBI groundout from Adam Jones and that was it. This was the beginning of a futile night for the 3-4-5 hitters, who were a combined 0-12 in the game. That is going to make it hard to score runs.
Seattle evened things up at 1-1 with a Dustin Ackley home run in the third inning off Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez, who was not done giving up homers. In the fifth inning, the Mariners got themselves runners on second and third for Robinson Cano, who has actually been awful in his career against Gonzalez, batting .083 heading into tonight. That wasn't to last. Cano hit a home run over the Esskay out-of-town scoreboard, putting the Orioles in a 4-1 hole.
Gonzalez has now allowed 19 home runs in 107.2 innings on the season. It's bad. He was lifted after five innings Saturday, allowing four runs on seven hits and a walk. He struck out only one batter.
That was all the offense that the Mariners would need, although they got some more for good measure, nabbing a couple of runs in the top of the ninth inning due to a rough inning from the pair of Tommy Hunter and T.J. McFarland. After an Austin Jackson single with two outs, McFarland relieved Hunter, and everything fell apart. Ackley got on with an infield single, and McFarland, who was not displaying good command on the night, hit Cano with an inside pitch to load the bases.
Kendrys Morales dumped in a single in front of Markakis, who fielded the ball and held on to it for a minute while pondering his next action. He settled on a touching homage to The Big Lebowski, bowling the ball in towards the cutoff man, which allowed Ackley to easily score on the play. The Dude might abide, but the Orioles chances of winning the game did not. The sixth run didn't matter, anyway, but plays like that can only make you shake your head.
Mariners closer Fernando Rodney shuffled in from the bullpen for the bottom of the ninth inning, taking so long to get himself to the mound that he wasn't even onto the infield dirt by the time the between-innings commercial break ended. After the home plate umpire suggested he speed up his warm-up routine, Rodney slowed it down even more. What a dick.
The O's made things vaguely interesting, vaguely in the sense that the tying run came to the plate with two outs. Steve Pearce got things started with a one out walk, ultimately scoring after a pair of singles from pinch hitter Ryan Flaherty and Markakis. That brought up Machado, who was 3-4 on the night, but he had no magic left in the tank, bouncing out to second to end the game.
Of the O's eight hits, Machado had three and Caleb Joseph had two, with Joseph delivering a solo home run in the fifth inning that pulled the score back to 4-2 at the time. That was Joseph's fourth home run of the year, which ties him with J.J. Hardy.
The game featured a Chris Davis action figure giveaway to fans 14 and under. Davis himself did not start the game, due to the combination of his recent illness, a left-handed starter, and probably his poor performance this year. Davis pinch hit in the eighth inning, representing the tying run at the time, a move that was quickly countered by Seattle bringing in lefty reliever Charlie Furbush. Davis flew out harmlessly to right. In the movie version, he hit a home run. Alas, we live in real life instead.
In July, the Orioles batted .229/.286/.375, the second lowest OPS of any AL team in that month. August isn't looking much better so far. Thanks to good pitching, the O's went 17-8 in July despite that putrid hitting. Any night where they don't get that good pitching - and some of the ones that do - will be lost causes until things turn around.
With the loss, the Orioles failed to take advantage of Toronto losing once again in Houston. Their division lead holds at 2.5 games. The Yankees beat the Red Sox, pulling to within 5 games.
Sunday will bring the rubber match of this series, and just the thing to jump start the Orioles sputtering bats: Hisashi Iwakuma, one of the stronger pitches on the Seattle staff. No big deal. The O's counter with Chris Tillman in the 1:35 game. What could possibly go wrong?