Rooting for a baseball team is not one of the smarter life decisions a person can make. Most of us didn't choose it, of course. It chose us. More's the pity. Every game we watch a group of mostly millionaires, and we are heavily emotionally invested in the outcome of a contest over which we can exert no control whatsoever. Many games, they will lose. In some years, most games, they will lose. And even in the good years, it's probably going to end in heartbreak, leaving the distant dream of maybe next year.
Then you get to next year, and it's this.
The 2015 Orioles are not a bad baseball team, but they are a baseball team that is, at present, playing very badly. They cannot score runs in sufficient quantities to save their lives, or, put in a less hyperbolic way, their season. They're a strikeout-prone group of hackers who can occasionally demonstrate some power but when they're not getting the power, what you instead get is these awful games where they score one runs, or two runs, or none.
And you look at the lineup afterwards and you see things like the first baseman Chris Parmelee batting ninth and it's like, of course that happened. Of course they lost. You might lose in part because of bad luck - broken bat bloopers that just die in the right place on the diamond, the other team's defense making a play that's maybe made 10% of the time - but when your first baseman bats ninth and your offense sucks, well, of course it does. That's a structural deficiency built into the team at this time.
This beautiful, terrible moving picture that MLB will inevitably have taken down from the Internet because they hate social media tells the story of the game better than I ever could:
bro u need to swing earlier pic.twitter.com/5j2cWPzeWd— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) July 24, 2015
That's it. That's the Orioles right now. This is a guy who is on the team. They went out of their way to trade for him, sending a couple of distant-from-the-majors minor league lefties to the Pirates in order to acquire Travis Snider's services. I'm sure they had their reasons. They probably weren't even bad reasons. That's the case with many of the Orioles' offseason moves, including many of the non-signings that the "Peter Angelos is cheap!" crowd harps on even though they would have been terrible signings.
But they made them and this is how they're turning out, and maybe it's not entirely their fault; Rays starter Chris Archer is a good pitcher and he strikes out like one hojillion dudes. That's what happens. So of course they struck out 14 times tonight. It may well have been a miracle they got the one run, given the state of their offense in July... and it was almost enough, even so. It was very nearly enough.
The Orioles got that one run on a fluky play in the fourth inning. Chris Davis doubled down the right field line, a ball that Rays first baseman James Loney, a solid fielder, essentially punched into the Rays bullpen area. The deflection provided enough extra time for Manny Machado to speed around from first base on the play and score thanks to a rushed throw home.
Davis was in scoring position thanks to that double, and we know what that means. The stat that the pre-game show on MASN quoted was, I believe, that the Orioles were 17-126 with RISP in the month of July. That is, unsurprisingly, the worst number in the league. But right after Davis got on second base, the Orioles got a hit with RISP! J.J. Hardy hit a single! Hooray! ...except it was a hard hit ball that bounced right to one of the Rays outfielders and so the Orioles did not get a run off their lone hit with RISP in the game. They went 1-7 total on the night.
Snider, starring in the above GIF, snuffed out that rally promptly with a ground ball double play where he tried valiantly to make it to first base despite the refrigerator strapped to his back. He was short by a step.
And even so they almost won. They carried a 1-0 lead into the eighth inning. Chris Tillman looked like the Tillman of last year for the second straight start. Maybe that's because he was facing the Rays offense, who are not good. Maybe he improved something over the All-Star Break. But he was tiring and so the Orioles brought in Darren O'Day, the All-Star who has generally locked down the eighth inning all season.
We've seen him work his way out of multiple bases-loaded, nobody-out jams this year, and this was a measly man on first with nobody out. The runner stole second, but O'Day got two easy outs and all he had to do was set down John Jaso to move the O's into the ninth, where All-Star closer Zach Britton could take over and do his thing.
Yet even O'Day has a weakness, and that weakness is left-handed hitting. They sport a .786 OPS against him. Jaso is a lefty, one who is actually kind of inexplicably batting .300/.400/.500. Should manager Buck Showalter have been on top of this and gone to Britton for a four-out save? Maybe, but he didn't. Most of the time sticking with O'Day works.
This time it did not. Three runs scored before all was said and done. It almost doesn't even matter how, just like it doesn't matter that this was the first loss suffered by either O'Day or Britton all year, nor does it matter that, before this game, the Orioles were 39-0 in games where they led after seven innings. The Orioles needed a win tonight, really badly needed a win to stave off the crescendo of rumors about whether or not they will or should be trade deadline sellers (never mind that Showalter flatly denied any such thing before the game).
What the Orioles got instead was the kind of long fart where you desperately try to hold it in because you know it's going to be a mess. Eventually you can't hold it in any more and you have to change your pants afterwards and you hope nobody notices. I've got some bad news. Everybody noticed.