After getting shutout for three straight games (with some bad pitching added in), it would be hard for the Orioles to look much worse. So while things were better tonight they were hardly good. Sometimes you lose games even when you play well. Tonight, the Orioles lost because they played bad. The Blue Jays weren't at their best and the O's had a very good chance to win but couldn't pull it out.
You probably heard in the leadup to this game how bad Tillman's numbers were against the Blue Jays, or maybe you have a vague recollection of him imploding against them. Either way, there was little reason to think he'd make it out of the fourth inning. But aside from a solo home run by Encarnacion in the second inning, he did a very good job. He threw first pitch strikes, he had his command, and he kept the pitch count low. But back to Encarnacion...would it be wrong for someone to mock his "parrot arm" during a home run? I guess there's no real reason to do it - not unless he provoked it by talking trash before the game or something. Still, I feel like it's ripe for parody somehow.
It didn't take long for the Orioles to respond though. With one out in the bottom of the second, Wieters and Schoop would both single. Next up was Ryan Flaherty, who homered to make it 3-1 Orioles. There are a lot of fans out there who are big fans of Flaherty (I'm one of them) for showing up everyday and playing whatever role he's asked to play. He's not the best or flashiest player, but he's always there. And every now and then he comes through and delivers a big play. While I wouldn't normally call a three run homer in the second inning a big play, producing some runs to break that scoreless inning streak that extended back to last week is a big play.
Through the first four innings, Tillman was looking very good. In fifth though, he started running some pitch counts too high and erased the efficient game he had been having. It still wasn't bad - but he was helped by a double play and an amazing play by Manny Machado. It's kind of hard to describe, but it was one one those balls (hit by Goins) that had a lot of spin on it and went just over Tillman and had it landed probably would've rolled out for single. But Machado made a great dive to catch the ball for the out. It wasn't the most impressive play he's ever made, but it was the kind you don't see everyday. It's also the kind a lot of infielders wouldn't make, and its worth giving him credit for it even if we've kind of become accustomed to him doing things like that. I remember how bad things were for the first couple months last season when Machado was out - let's not take him for granted.
During the broadcast, Gary Thorne speculated during a Gerardo Parra at-bat if he would be back next year. Since coming to the majors in 2010, Parra has been a below-average hitter. Before 2015, he only had one season with a wRC+ above 100 (106 in 2011). Before being traded this year, it looked like he might be breaking out. As is usually the case though, his 135 wRC+this season with the Brewers was driven by a lucky .372 BABIP. Since coming to Baltimore his 56 wRC+ puts him right in line for another barely above average season. And for someone who's been inconsistent at best defensively - should the Orioles re-sign him? Maybe - if the money's right. But at 28 years old he's probably close to peaking offensively. I'm thinking something like 3 years and $16-$17M would be about right. I'm also thinking Parra wouldn't even consider it.
I took some time to write about Parra because there wasn't much going on this game. After the home runs of the second inning it was a quick game, with both pitchers mostly doing what they wanted. Chris Tillman came out for the eighth inning at around 8:45. Unfortunately, he wouldn't make it to the top of the hour. After a a single by Goins and a groundout by Smoak that pushed Goins to second, Buck came out to pull Tillman who left to a standing ovation from the crowd. It was well deserved too - he only struck out three, but he got ten groundball outs. With an infield defense like the Orioles', that can be just as good as a strikeout. Darren O'Day came in to relieve Tillman.
Ben Revere quickly made it a more interesting game though - he hit a single off O'Day that allowed Smoak to score. 3-2 Orioles. Josh Donaldson, your likely AL MVP, came up next and singled to move Revere to second. That brought up Jose Bautista. I hoped for the double play, I feared the home run. Instead, he hit a sharp grounder to right field. Parra made a good throw into home to try and get Revere. Wieters did a great job of getting the ball and blocking the plate, but it was just half a second too late as Revere was able to reach behind Wieters to ever-so-slightly skim the plate with one finger. Wieters even started to argue with the home plate umpire, but was aware enough to notice Bautista trying for second. He threw to second to catch Bautista in the rundown and get him out. Donaldson ended up at third with two outs. The damage was done though, the score was now tied. Encarnacion came up and worked a walk, which means this inning was taking as long as the previous three combined. O'Day would strikeout Colabello to end the inning. O'Day hadn't made an appearance at all in Boston, meaning his last outing was Thursday in D.C. You have to wonder if that had anything to do with how this inning went for him.
Brach came in for the top of the ninth and allowed a leadoff single to Navarro. Dalton Pompey came in to pinch run for Navarro. He moved over to second after Pillar hit a single to center field. Goins was up next and laid down a good sac bunt that allowed Wieters to throw him out at first, but moved the runners up to second and third. After that, a lot of things happened. Smoak hit a grounder to Davis, who tried to make the play at the plate, but he overthrew it and Goins was able to score. The ball bounced off the wall so hard though Witers was able to get it and tag out Pillar at the plate. The play was reviewed, but it didn't look like enough of anything to overturn it, so Pillar remained out. While all this was going on, Smoak ran to second - Wieters tried to throw him out and nearly threw the ball away but Schoop caught it end the action. Revere lined out to end the inning, but now it was 4-3 Blue Jays.
Chris Davis led off the bottom of the ninth with a strikeout. At this point, Gibbons pulled Brett Cecil (who relieved Estrada in the eighth) to get a right-hander to pitch to Steve Pearce. Buck then put in Jimmy Paredes (who, yes, is still on the team) to pinch hit for Pearce. All that was for nothing though as Paredes quickly struck out. Clevenger flied out to left field to end the game.
So despite getting the early lead and a strong start by Tillman, the Orioles lose the game 4-3. If it's not one thing its another with this team. Tonight it was the bullpen. Scoring three runs is not a lot when you're playing the Blue Jays so some of this is on the offense, but when you take a lead into the eighth you need to find a way to win. The Red Sox are currently beating the Yankees 5-1 in the ninth, meaning its likely right now the Blue Jays will clinch the division while in Baltimore...so yes, it will get worse.