The BABIP Dragon emerged hungry from its lair in the bottom of the tenth inning in Seattle on Tuesday night. The Orioles were the only prey in sight on a wide open plain. First they were charred to a nice medium rare, and then as the dragon swooped in, they were grabbed by razor sharp talons, tossed into the yawning maw, crunched a few times by rows of teeth, and then straight down the gullet. There is no surviving the BABIP Dragon and so the Orioles lost to the Mariners, 6-5.
There are many reasons the Orioles lost and we will get to many of them in their turn, but for the most part they were the kind of plays where there's not much you can do except throw your hands up and sigh. T.J. McFarland, working his first full inning of relief in the tenth, did not do anything especially wrong as the left-handed Logan Morrison sliced a ball down the left field line, just perfectly placed to stay fair. That's not a repeatable demonstration of skill by Morrison. That's a guy being late on a ball and getting lucky.
So that was the winning run in scoring position with no one out in extra innings. Of course the Orioles had to draw in Manny Machado at third base in anticipation of a possible bunt by another lefty hitter, Brad Miller. Instead of bunting, Miller took what MASN analyst Jim Palmer characterized as a "butcher's boy swing" - which probably doesn't evoke any specific image for you so just imagine the ugliest swing you can. Miller hacked the ball into the ground in front of home plate, which managed to chop just over the leaping Machado.
I guess, maybe, you can ascribe some level of skill to that, knowing the properties of your home field and taking advantage of the fielder's necessary position... but really it was more of the angry vengeance of the BABIP Dragon, a beast that I'm honestly not sure how we offended so much that it still must feast on us after the bloody carnage left in its wake during the 2014 ALCS. Whatever the case, Miller got a cheap single and it was first and third with nobody out.
McFarland then walked .168 hitter Mike Zunino, not intentionally, loading the bases with nobody out, and yeah, that sucked and of course it wasn't going to end well. The Austin Jackson walkoff that probably would have been a double if it wasn't a walkoff was almost anticlimactic after all of that. The Orioles were losers - the last losers of the night in MLB. Every other game that finished before this one had the road team lose. The O's made it a clean sweep, 0-15 for road teams, the first time that's ever happened in MLB history.
Do you feel any better being a part of history? No, me either. The Orioles have still yet to win or lose consecutive games in the month of August. They once again missed out on prime opportunity to gain ground as both the Yankees, who they're chasing in the division, and the Angels, who they're chasing in the Wild Card, lost on Tuesday.
In case you're wondering how things ended up knotted 5-5 at the end of regulation, here's a brief rundown. The O's hitters pulled one of their "score early and then forget how to score" maneuvers, grabbing two runs off of Taijuan Walker in the top of the first inning. Jonathan Schoop did the damage with a two-run single that came with the bases loaded.
They made Walker throw 33 pitches in the first inning, which you might think would have presaged an early exit, except after this the Orioles just kind of stopped. Walker cleared six innings on the night, and after that first inning he only gave up another two hits and that was it.
Meanwhile, Orioles starter Chris Tillman stunk from the get-go. Actually, that's not true. Tillman got two quick, easy groundouts in the bottom of the first inning and THEN stunk. Former Oriole Nelson Cruz walloped his major league-leading 34th home run to deep center field. Robinson Cano and Seth Smith followed this up by singling, and then Tillman gave up yet another homer, this time to Mark Trumbo, who sucks.
The Orioles trailed 4-2 after one. Tillman managed to give up another run in the second inning and was pulled unceremoniously from the game after only 2.1 innings pitched. In that time he still managed to go full Tommy Hunter (you never go full Tommy Hunter) with five runs, all earned, on eight hits.
With the way the bullpen use has played out lately, the Orioles were at an early handicap even without the 5-2 deficit they faced on the scoreboard. With closer Zach Britton going for a five out save yesterday and Rule 5 guy Jason Garcia seeming to be buried except in blowouts or extreme desperation, they needed to ask a lot of the rest of the guys just to get as far as they did.
The unit was up to the task of keeping the O's in the game, even Brian Matusz, who relieved Tillman and pitched 2.1 scoreless innings in which he struck out four batters. Matusz even stranded the two runners he inherited when he entered the game. Mychal Givens added 1.1 innings and Brad Brach went for 1.2, which got the O's into the eighth inning.
It was the eighth inning where the Orioles offense woke up again. Against Mariners reliever Tom Wilhelmsen, Gerardo Parra worked a one-out walk. Wilhelmsen then suffered the wrath of Adam Jones Returned To Seattle, as Jones crushed a ball over the fence in left field, bringing the Orioles within a run.
At this point, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon opted to bring in a left-handed reliever, Joe Beimel, to face the left-handed Chris Davis. That's just one of those accepted baseball orthodox things. Only in 2015, Davis was hitting to an .839 OPS against lefties going into the game. That is not very safe harbor for Beimel, and sure enough, Davis greeted him by blasting a home run to the deepest part of the stadium. Things were tied up just like that - and suddenly, worrying about how to stretch out the bullpen into possible infinite was a concern.
Maybe Darren O'Day was being kept in reserve for a save situation. Maybe O'Day was burned up the same way Britton was burned up in Sunday's loss. The O's had the go-ahead run in scoring position with one out in the ninth inning, where it stayed after a couple of pathetic strikeouts by Nolan Reimold and Machado, who farted through at-bats against Mariners reliever Carson Smith looking like they just had no idea he throws a lot of sliders. Or maybe he only throws lots of sliders against them because they're hackers.
You can blame a lot of people. Blame Tillman for an especially awful outing. Blame the bats who slept through six innings of the game, blame the BABIP Dragon, blame McFarland, blame Buck for the way he's managed the bullpen the last three games, blame whoever. The Orioles lost and that sucks.
They'll be back in action on Wednesday afternoon to settle the rubber game of this series. At this point, all we can do is hope their streak of alternating wins and losses continues for at least one more day, because losing the series would feel a lot like losing the season. The scheduled starters for the 3:40pm Eastern finale are Kevin Gausman and Hisashi Iwakuma.
Oh, and Matt Wieters left the game at the same time as Tillman because of a right hamstring strain. After the game, the O's said he'd be re-evaluated on the off day, but don't be surprised if Steve Clevenger has a cross-country flight in his very, very immediate future, either.