Tommy went boom. The Orioles lost their game against the Twins on a walkoff home run hit by Brian Dozier. The final score was 4-2. Hunter was bounced last year from the closer role. He's lost his spot this year in the very back end of the Orioles bullpen, yet still sometimes he must appear in key situations, like in the ninth and tenth inning of a tie game on the road, because you can't capriciously blow through relievers once the extra frames are lined up.
Hunter only needed to navigate the bottom of the Twins order in the tenth inning, mostly right-handed bats. He was not successful in doing so, and that was that. Danny Santana singled ahead of Dozier, one of the final five choices for the American League All-Star ballot. He is a fine second baseman who has homered 16 times before tonight. Maybe that's the guy you don't want to let beat you. Monday, Dozier was the guy who beat the Orioles.
There are other parties to whom to assign some blame, to be sure. Let's set our sights on home plate umpire Laz Diaz, whose very name causes Jim Palmer to break out in hives. This was the plate appearance against Dozier that ended in a game-ending home run:
Laz Diaz in action. Green dots in the black box = failure. pic.twitter.com/RO0keZhfJS— Camden Chat (@CamdenChat) July 7, 2015
There are two things going on here. One thing is that Hunter is trying to work Dozier on the inside corner of the plate. The other thing is that Diaz is not calling those pitches strikes. When you get green dots in the black box, the umpire has failed. Diaz failed on two consecutive pitches, making what Hunter earned, an 0-2 count, into a 2-0 count.
Dozier was set up very far inside, so no surprise Hunter wanted to work him far inside. For each of these two pitches, Dozier pulled the very Pedroian move of turning away from a strike. Diaz bought the routine and blew the calls, each of which caused Palmer, broadcasting the game, to groan in disgust. The next pitch after these two blown calls was the pitch that ended the game. These are events with a strong causal connection flowing between them.
All of that said, if the Orioles really wanted to win this game, maybe they could have tried getting a hit with runners in scoring position. Literally one hit in any of the eight at-bats where they were presented with the opportunity to drive home a run or multiple runs would have done the trick. This does not seem like a lot to ask of the team that, as MASN broadcasts like to remind us, is leading the league in average with RISP.
Some nights, rather than that RISP average lead being a selling point, what it instead means is that the wicked scythe of regression reaps our dreams of offense, hauling the smooth-cut stalks off to a nearby mill where they will be ground into dust that, I'm told, makes a fine flour for baking bread.
How much worse could the Orioles RISP hitting tonight be? None more worse. They were all bad. Two men on with one out in the second inning, that turned into a second and third with two out situation for freshly-minted All-Star Adam Jones? Just kidding, how about a crappy foul pop to the catcher!
Jones made up for it with a home run high off the foul pole in the sixth inning. It was a night for home runs. Five of them accounted for all six of the game's runs. After the Jones homer, his 11th of the year, Chris Davis singled. He advanced to third on a double to center field off the bat of Matt Wieters, one of a few fly balls that actually fell in without a Twins outfielder catching it. This was a great chance... that turned into nothing quickly.
J.J. Hardy grounded a ball right back to Twins starter Phil Hughes, who was quick enough to field his position and hold the runners. Next came your favorite thing and mine, the deep fly ball that comes with a man on third and two outs and would have scored a run if only it happened a batter sooner.
Perhaps the worst of them was the seventh inning sequence that chased Hughes from the game. David Lough and birthday boy Manny Machado had back-to-back one-out singles, which prompted Twins manager Paul Molitor to summon Brian Duensing from his bullpen. Jimmy Paredes, whom, you might have heard, also has a high RISP batting average, grounded into a double play on the very first pitch he saw. Come on, man.
They even had a chance to score in the top of the tenth inning. Lough led off the inning with a single and aggressively took second base on a deep fly ball hit by Machado. When the inning ended, that was still where he was. Paredes struck out and Jones grounded out to shortstop. Dozier's home run came in the next half-inning. The Orioles did not bat again. They were 0-8 with RISP on the night.
Monday's game was the latest where a starter had a solid performance wasted by a lack of offense. Wei-Yin Chen pitched seven strong innings, allowing only four hits and three walks while striking out five. Unfortunately for him and us, two of those four hits were home runs, one hit by Torii Hunter and the other by Aaron Hicks. But most nights two runs in seven innings should get you a win.
Instead, Chen left with the game tied at 2-2. The O's got both of their own runs via the homer, one hit by Jones in the sixth and the other a leadoff home run by Machado to start the game. It was Machado's 18th home run of the year. When you've got multiple All-Stars and they play like All-Stars, that's good. Even surprise All-Star Darren O'Day pitched a clean inning. Zach Britton, ALSO an All-Star, was not sighted. Maybe tomorrow.
So that sucked. The Orioles lost a half game on the idle Yankees and are now 1.5 games back in the AL East, which is good enough for second place. They'll continue their series against the Twins on Tuesday with a scheduled 8:10pm start. Kevin Gausman and Kyle Gibson are the probable pitchers. Gibson does not have an ERA over 4, so perhaps the Orioles have a chance.