There are a lot of different ways to lose a baseball game. The Orioles have explored many of those ways over the past six weeks or so, time in which they have not managed to win three games in a row at any point. It's a challenge to fail in so many ways that feel the same on the surface but, when you dig down... well, they're mostly still the same, actually.
The Orioles once again failed to score more than two runs, which has been the story of the whole last month. They lost to the Indians, 2-1, on Saturday afternoon, and probably should have lost by a lot more. Just for that extra sting, the final out of the game was a TOOTBLAN recorded at second base, because for some reason Chris Davis thought it would be a good idea to start running on the dropped third strike as Matt Wieters swung and missed. Would it have ended up mattering? Probably not, but it was still stupid.
That the game was close at all was something of a miracle. Orioles starter Ubaldo Jimenez walked a whopping six batters in only five innings of work. He also allowed Cleveland batters six hits. Watching him pitch was almost enough to induce bleeding of the eyes. Yet for all of that, Jimenez somehow buckled down when it counted, except for that one time he gave up an RBI single to .220 hitter Nick Swisher, but let's not pick nits. How do you give up 12 runners in five innings but only one run? Very carefully!
Everybody Walk! with Ubaldo Jimenez, the latest exercise tape sensation
Jimenez didn't even look like he was going to make it five innings, kicking off speculation about what the O's would do since they're a man down on the roster due to the Brian Matusz suspension. He looked like the Ubaldo of last year, unable to throw strikes even though he is and will continue to be paid with the goal of throwing strikes. Well, it's good to have goals.
While Ubaldo was walking everyone in sight, Cleveland starter Danny Salazar was striking out everyone in sight. By that second "everyone" I actually mean ten strikeouts in seven innings, which for the purposes of a single baseball game might as well be everyone. Jimenez gave up more than two runners per inning he pitched; Salazar gave up only a baserunner per inning. The lone blemish on the day for Salazar came when he gave up a home run to Manny Machado in the top of the third inning - Machado's ninth of the season.
Staked to a 1-0 lead, Jimenez came out in the bottom of the third inning pitching like he wanted to give the lead back as soon as possible. He walked the leadoff batter on four pitches and walked the next batter too. Y u do dis, Ubaldo? Luckily for Jimenez, Michael Brantley scorched a line drive that went right into the glove of J.J. Hardy at short, allowing them to double off the lead runner, Jason Kipnis. Hey, maybe he would make it out of that after all!
Just kidding! Jimenez walked Brandon Moss before giving up the game-tying single to Swisher, who, I can't stress enough, has been incredibly bad this year.
A bad offense continues to be bad
If anything else happened for the Orioles offensively, I'd be glad to tell you about it. The thing is that after the Machado home run, Salazar faced 16 Orioles batters and recorded 14 outs. Two singles were erased by double plays. The last batter was Ryan Flaherty, who led off the eighth inning with a walk before Salazar was finally pulled from the game.
By this time, the Orioles trailed, 2-1. Brad Brach came out of the bullpen in the sixth inning on the Chris Tillman pitching plan, by which I mean that he easily got two outs before running into trouble. A nine-pitch Kipnis at-bat turned into a walk and Brach got to a 2-2 count on Santana before giving up a double that bounced against the right field wall and easily allowed Kipnis to score.
Brach went on to pitch another inning and a third after giving up the run in the sixth. Those runners were the only ones he allowed. He takes the loss today, but it's not his fault that he had zero margin for error. The Orioles hitters are the ones who only got six hits and two walks in an entire game. They're the ones who only scored one run. They're the ones who had three at-bats all day with runners in scoring position and failed in each one of those. Brach spared the O's 'pen from having to be used heavily in a short start.
Back to Flaherty, who stood on first base as Cleveland changed pitchers. He was bunted over to second base by Caleb. My normal reaction to any bunt is to recoil in disgust, as one might do after getting a whiff of a sour carton of milk. As bunts go, though, having your #9 hitter who is in a 2-for-25 slump drop a bunt isn't the worst idea. Flaherty was in scoring position with only one out.
That turned the order over and brought up Machado, who took two balls to start things off. A promising situation quickly turned otherwise; Machado waved at two high pitches before finally making contact on a breaking ball. That turned into a non-threatening pop-up. Delmon Young grounded out to first and that was that.
How to fail against a bad closer
Indians closer Cody Allen sports a 1.48 WHIP, which is a Rodneyan level of a wild ride for your closer. Naturally, that meant he struck out Adam Jones on a pitch at approximately neck level. Allen walked Davis, then got the game ending strike 'em out throw 'em out double play through unusual means that count for two outs just the same.
This makes 15 games out of the last 27 where the Orioles have scored two runs or fewer. They were 13-15 when that stretch of games kicked off. Now they're 25-30. In the 15 games where they scored two or fewer, they are 1-14. There is no putting lipstick on that pig.
The Orioles will try to grab the series in the rubber game on Sunday afternoon, scheduled for 1:10 first pitch. The listed starting pitchers are Carlos Carrasco for Cleveland, while Bud Norris will be returning from the disabled list to start for the O's.