Nobody should have expected a sweep of the Nationals, but after Schoop's walk-off home run on Friday, a series win seemed well within grasp. After blowing a 4-2 lead on Saturday night, the Orioles would get an early lead on Sunday off of an Adam Jones home run. But again, the offense failed to do much of anything and the Orioles would lose the game 3-2. It's possible you could write off this game to a dominant pitching performance by Max Scherzer, and he was good, but this is exactly the kind of game the Orioles have been playing lately. They failed (again) to get a hit with a runner in scoring position, which is almost becoming comical at this point. They just failed to find anything to get them going.
Things got off to a fast start. The Nationals got men on second and third in the top of the first, but Chen was able to work out of it, aided by a nice catch by Chris Davis in RF, who made up for a bad play earlier in that inning. In the bottom of the first, Adam Jones continued his good record against Scherzer with a solo home run that put the Orioles up 1-0.
Nothing much happened after that until the fourth inning. Chen pitched a great game except for this inning, when the Nationals got a few hits in a row. One of them was to center field, and Adam Jones kind of bobbled the ball before making a bad throw into home to try and get out Escobar. He was charged with an error on the play. It was strange to see Jones make a bad play like that - kind of a reminder of how good the Orioles have it with him there 99% of the time. But that's usually with a healthy Jones and he is definitely not healthy right now. With any luck he'll decide to skip the All-Star Game and rest his shoulder, but I kind of doubt it. Moore would follow that up with a double to score two more runs, the O's were down 3-1.
The Orioles had a really hard time with Scherzer, he's having a tremendous year, and even though he's had some bad games (like his last start against the Reds) most of them this year have looked like this. I mentioned before how the Orioles continued to struggle with RISP, but honestly they only got one guy there the entire game. That happened in the bottom of the 6th when Schoop and Paredes would get on base, but Adam Jones popped out to end the inning. Jones hit two home runs in this game - if instead he had only hit one and it had happened in the sixth, the game might be in extra innings right now. Baseball is weird.
Wei-Yen Chen would be the first starter pulled from the game. He went eight innings, getting seven strikeouts, and only being charged with two of the three runs because of Jones' error. It was a strong game, his fifth quality start in a row. He finishes this half with a 2.78 ERA. Chen will be a free agent after this season. He's one of the few guys the Orioles should try and keep, but I doubt they'll be able to afford him.
Scherzer looked like he was going to turn in another complete game, but Adam Jones got his 2nd home run in the bottom of the ninth with two outs. He left the game after that, to be replaced by Drew Storen, who came in to face Chris Davis. In what certainly seemed like a fitting way to end the first half of the season, Davis struck out.
The Orioles now fall to 44-44. The loss pushes them to fourth in the division, 3.5 games behind the Yankees, who as of this writing were beating the Red Sox, so expect that to end up at 4 GB going into the break. This is a decidedly worse position than they were in going into the break last season, when they were leading the division (by 4 games). Some things to give you some hope are that they continue to play worse than their run differential and I can't imagine this RISP thing is going to keep up for much longer. Their pitching has shown signs of being just as good as last year, and the defense continues to be as good as its ever been. Jonathan Schoop is back and playing well. Matt Wieters is also playing decently and seeing more playing time. Frankly, I'd like to see less of Chris Parmelee. Why he's been playing at 1st while Davis is in right field is beyond me.
The Orioles have a lot of figure out over this break and I imagine the players not going to Cincinnati will spend a lot of time thinking about how they can play better and help the team in the second half. They could use a break, and I think the fans could too. Watching every game and following along with the daily news and rumors is approximately .0001% of the work the players on the team have to do, but can still take its toll on us normal folk. So enjoy the All-Star festivities and remember it could be worse. (see 1998-2011).