Nothing good is ever going to happen when you only get three hits against Matt Shoemaker. That is the low point the Orioles reached in Saturday's game, one game after getting very little done against Jered Weaver. They were largely shut down in a 6-1 loss to the Angels where, for the second straight night, they completely ruined a fantastic effort by their starting pitcher.
When they play like this, it starts to feel like nothing good will ever happen again. It is probably not a coincidence that this loss drops the Orioles to four games below .500 for the first time since the 2011 season. They've had three straight winning seasons and were never lower than three below .500 in any one of those. We are in uncharted territory now, or perhaps we are in territory that the Orioles have charted all too well from the late 1990s through to 2011.
Though the final score was 6-1, this was actually a pitcher's duel for most of the contest. Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez had a great outing for his first six innings and, although the Angels got both hits and runs against him in the seventh inning, he still did pretty well. The BABIP dragon flew out from the Lonely Mountain. Bard the Bowman was nowhere in sight. There were only Orioles, and birds don't do so hot against dragons.
That seventh inning was where the game started to slip away. The Orioles came into the inning holding a 1-0 lead that represented the only offense they'd get all night. Steve Pearce, once again playing second base, smashed a pitch from Shoemaker into the left field seats. That was Pearce's second hit of the night and his third home run of the year. He is still below the Mendoza Line.
Anyway, the top of the seventh. Without ever having a ball leave the infield, the Angels got two men on base. Erick Aybar opened up by beating out an infield single to third base. Even Manny Machado would have been hard presed to throw out a fast runner on a slow roller on a night where the wet grass dampened those kinds of balls. And Machado, as will be discussed later, is not at his best. Next came a single to short - bad contact, bad result for the Orioles. We saw this movie last October.
Jimenez got the next two batters and was almost out of the inning, but then Chris Iannetta, he of the .123 batting average, chopped a ball to third. Machado tried to spear the high hop as it went past him, but all he managed to do was deflect the ball into left field, away from where shortstop J.J. Hardy was backing up the play. On a good day Machado comes up with the ball. On an average day, he gets out of the way and lets Hardy collect the ball, with no outs recorded but no runs scoring. On Saturday he did none of those things and the Angels tied the game, 1-1.
The next batter, Marc Krauss, had yet to get a hit in 2015. This was only his third game played. He hit the only well-struck ball off Jimenez all inning, the kind of Robert Andino-against-the-Red-Sox special to left field, easily scoring Johnny Giavotella. The Orioles were behind and, since they had nothing going on with the bats, they would never get closer.
Machado's struggles were not limited to that one play. Earlier in the game he committed an error when he tried to backhand a ball hit to him while he was shifted into the usual shortstop position. That was his ninth error of the year, which leads MLB third basemen. It's bad. Some fans in the crowd started to boo him after a misplay later in the game, perhaps in part because the wheels fell off in the ninth inning, which was dumb, but you can certainly understand the frustration, both with him and with the team's performance in general of late.
Jimenez ended up allowing two runs on seven hits and no walks (!) in seven innings of work. That's a great line even considering all of the bad luck he suffered in his bad inning. A couple of balls bounce a little differently and Jimenez would have left the game with an ERA under 2.00 through seven starts. He's sitting at 2.43 instead, which isn't too shabby.
After Jimenez left the game, things still kind of sucked. Darren O'Day gave up an opposite field home run to Mike Trout in the eighth inning, putting the Orioles down 3-1, and a series of bad and unfortunate events led to the Angels scoring another three runs on four hits against Zach Britton, who was getting some work in the ninth inning. It was bad, not that it ended up mattering because the Orioles went down 1-2-3 against Joe Smith in the eighth inning and again facing Fernando Salas in the ninth inning.
Things are bad for the Orioles at the moment. The MLB team doesn't look so good, Kevin Gausman is on the disabled list, Hunter Harvey is being mentioned in the same sentence with Dr. James Andrews, Dylan Bundy is puttering around in Bowie, and amidst all of that the O's have a worse record than they've had any of the last three years. When will it get better? I have no idea.
They will at least try to get back in the win column on Sunday afternoon, needing to win to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Angels. Garrett Richards, who was pretty good last year and has a 2.27 ERA so far this year, is the Angels starter. Due to the illness of Bud Norris and the back stiffness of Chris Tillman, the Orioles starter will be Mike Wright, who's been on the roster for a few days but hasn't pitched yet. It'll be Wright's major league debut. First pitch is scheduled for 1:35.