What made Friday's win over the Royals such an emotional experience for Orioles fans was the sure knowledge deep in our hearts that, not long afterwards, business as usual would resume. And sure enough, business as usual resumed for the 2015 Orioles on Saturday afternoon, which, with the way this year has gone, was not a good thing. With a new day, they found a new way to fail, and ultimately lost a depressing game, 14-6.
It did not have to end up this way, as has often been the case this season. The tragedy of these Orioles has not been one of inevitability. Their tragedy is one of possibility. Things could have been a different way if they played to their overall capabilities, things that, for the most part, the individual members of the team have all demonstrated before at different times. Instead, many of them played poorly, for no real apparent reason, and the result was a game where Mike Moustakas, of all people, ended up with 9 RBI - a new Royals record.
If you have suffered through so many of the games the team has played this season, there was nothing particularly surprising about this outcome. There was no real shock to be found in the fact that Chris Tillman had an elevated pitch count and was knocked out of the game before finishing the sixth inning, nothing stunning about Brian Matusz coming on in relief, facing two batters, and retiring none.
This despite the fact that the Orioles actually entered the inning with a 4-1 lead, although by the time it ended, they trailed by a 6-4 score, and when T.J. McFarland had a very bad night later on, the score became far worse than that.
It's hard to believe with the way the score ended, but the Orioles did in fact lead in the game. They were the first team to score in the game, grabbing a run in the bottom of the first inning when Gerardo Parra hit a sacrifice fly. That sac fly came in a bases loaded situation with one out. You would have liked to see the Orioles get more runs there, but Matt Wieters followed with a strikeout instead.
The Royals answered quickly with a run of their own in the top of the second inning. That was where things stayed until the third inning, when the Orioles got a rally going to start the inning against Royals starter Yordano Ventura. The stat on Ventura from the last time these teams played is that when his velocity is high, he has a much better ERA.
Ventura spent a lot of this outing throwing 98, but it was not a very good outing, not least of which because of the three-run home run that Adam Jones mashed into the Orioles bullpen to give the O's a 4-1 lead after three innings. Hey, baseball can be fun! Or at least it was fun for an hour or so. That's better than nothing.
The lead held up until the top of the sixth inning, when Tillman made like John McClane at the end of Die Hard 2, which is to say that he tossed a lighter onto a trail of gasoline, sparking an inferno that ultimately consumed the Orioles in a fiery explosion. Actually, what he did was walk the leadoff man, Alex Gordon, despite a three run lead, and then kept failing to put away hitters. Eventually Eric Hosmer singled to put the tying run on base and manager Buck Showalter had enough of Tillman.
Tillman was relieved by Brian Matusz, who had one job, and did not do that job in any capacity. Matusz first issued a walk to the first batter he saw, switch hitter Kendrys Morales, before giving up a single to Moustakas, a play on which the tying runs crossed the plate. Matusz was supposed to retire either one of these two guys, preferably both. He instead got out no one before being pulled from the game.
In Matusz's defense - a phrase which I think you know does not appear frequently in these annals - the Pitch F/x chart makes very plain that Matusz actually struck out Moustakas on three pitches, but due to a bout of inexplicable incompetence on the part of the home plate umpire, two of these pitches were called balls. One might get a lot more upset about this sequence if not for the totality of the suck that followed afterwards, leaving the game such that the outcome of any one play did not solely influence its outcome.
So Matusz was out, and Chaz Roe was in. Roe is now a pumpkin, so it did not go well; Salvador Perez quickly plated the runners Roe inherited from Matusz - a fitting outcome given that Matusz himself has allowed 36% of inherited runners to score this year.
Two innings later, T.J. McFarland was pitching for the O's. He was also not good, and by not good I mean that the first three batters he faced reached base and he ended up giving up a grand slam to Moustakas. Left-handed pitchers are not supposed to do that against Moustakas, though Orioles left-handed pitchers seem to keep finding ways to do so. The grand slam was especially frustrating since it came after an 0-2 count. Execute your dang pitches!
After McFarland was done, the Orioles trailed, 11-4. Yikes.
A two-run FUHR by Nolan Reimold in the eighth inning brought the Orioles to within five runs. That's so far apart it's hardly even worth applying "within" as a descriptor. They were not close. Two walks followed the Reimold home run, at which point Royals manager Ned Yost stopped messing around and brought in Wade Davis to face Jones, who at that moment represented the within-two-runs run. When a player could potentially hit a second Earl Weaver Special of a game and his team would still be trailing by two runs, that's bad.
And anyway, what actually happened is that Jones grounded into a double play and the nascent rally was snuffed out like a candle in the wind.
Just to rub it in a little more, Steve Johnson, summoned for garbage time duty in the ninth inning, gave up a walk and a double before allowing Moustakas to get his 7th, 8th, and 9th runs driven in of the night all in one swing - a three-run home run, setting up the game's final score.
The O's and Royals will close out this series on Sunday Night Baseball, which means an 8pm start time and also John Kruk. But it also means Jessica Mendoza now, so it ought to be worth watching, or at least worth watching in terms of the broadcast itself. Whether the Orioles, with Wei-Yin Chen starting opposite Johnny Cueto, ultimately perform to make it worth watching, well, that's another story.