There are a lot of ways to lose a baseball game. The Orioles dabbled in many of them on Saturday, falling 7-2 to the Cubs in a game that was interrupted by a rain delay of over three hours. All that did was prolong the misery before the O's lost their second straight game.
One way you lose a baseball game is bad luck. The Orioles experienced this as the Cubs batted in the second inning, managing to load the bases and score a run on three straight singles, none of which were hit hard. What made it even more unfortunate is the fact that two of the plays were ground balls in the direction of third that you just knew Manny Machado would have made, because he's awesome. Instead, it's Chris Davis over there. That doesn't work out as well.
That's a recipe for grounders to sneak through, or infield bouncers to not be able to be fielded and fired to first in time. BABIP luck on ground balls is going to go less in your favor when you replace Machado with Davis. The Cubs ended up scoring four of their seven runs in that inning, none of which would have scored with their usual top notch third baseman.
Another way you lose a baseball game is making a bad pitch in the wrong situation, which the Orioles also experienced in the second inning. Starter Bud Norris found himself in a bases loaded, two out situation as a result of that chicanery, and in the end he surrendered all of the runs by leaving a pitch in the wrong place to Cubs left fielder Chris Coghlan, who lined a ball that bounced in air territory and rolled into the ample Wrigley foul ground. So, yes, the Orioles could have avoided most of those runners, but once they were on base and they had to be dealt wit, it was up to Norris to do something about that and he failed in his task.
That unfortunate second inning left the O's in a 4-2 hole. They had previously gotten the two runs by stringing together some base hits in each of the first and second innings. Adam Jones doubled home Steve Pearce in the first inning, while Norris plated J.J. Hardy with an infield single in the second inning. The AL starting pitcher getting an RBI is the kind of thing that might make it seem like your day - at that time, with the O's winning 2-0 after their half of the second inning, it was. That changed in a hurry.
Following the second inning, there was a rain delay of 3:09, a source of misery for most fans. Unlike the other night's Wrigley Field tarp mistake, the rain actually continued for quite some time. The ocean shook, the sky went black, and the captain quailed. They placed the tarp correctly and it just kept raining and raining.
The rain chased both starters, Norris and the Cubs' Kyle Hendricks. With the O's getting five hits in two innings off Hendricks, they might have been able to get even more, so the weather was not especially on their side in that regard.
Norris was replaced after the rain by Ubaldo Jimenez in his first relief appearance since 2006, all the way back when he made his major league debut. You probably just cringed there, but actually he wasn't too bad, all things considered. Jimenez held the fort for four innings, more or less, allowing a run on three hits and a walk. He also struck out five batters.
Jimenez probably would have kept pitching for another inning except his spot in the order came up after a seventh inning single by Nick Hundley. Trailing 5-2, that was a good time for the O's to have a real hitter come up to the plate. The pinch hitter was Cord Phelps, so whether he counts as a real hitter is another story. In any case, Phelps grounded into an inning-ending double play, so that was that.
After the rain chased Hendricks from the game, the Orioles only got two more hits in the game's final seven innings. One of those hits didn't even result in a baserunner; Adam Jones tried to stretch a single into a double in the eighth inning and was thrown out. He tried a little too hard to spark something. It's hard to get too mad. It just didn't work out.
The other reason the Orioles lost was that Tommy Hunter sucked. Relieving Jimenez to start the seventh, he immediately gave up an opposite field shot to Cubs rookie masher Javier Baez, who is an absurdly strong dude but also swings and misses at nearly every off-speed pitch. Hunter gave up a couple more hard-hit balls in the eighth and ended up allowing two runs on four hits over two innings.
So basically, even if the Orioles had Machado and prevented those four second inning runs, they still would have lost the game if everything else played out the way it did. They scored no runs after the second inning and gave up three more. They were unlucky and they were also bad, and they did not in any way deserve to win a baseball game on Saturday.
Unfortunately for the O's, both of their chasing divisional rivals, the Yankees and the Blue Jays, won earlier on Saturday, meaning the O's lead in the division has been cut to seven games over New York and eight over Toronto. That's still the largest division lead in MLB, but they can't keep losing to bad teams if they want that to last.
The O's will try to avoid the sweep on Sunday afternoon with a scheduled 2:20 Eastern game against the Cubs. Miguel Gonzalez looks to hold the line for the O's, while O's hitters will come up against one-time busted Orioles free agent signing Tsuyoshi Wada, who somehow has a 2.75 ERA. The National League is ridiculous.