If the Orioles had gotten together and tried to figure out how to play the worst possible game in the first game of their doubleheader against the Blue Jays on Wednesday afternoon, they probably could not have scripted a scenario that would have been any worse than what actually transpired in the game. Just about the only way it could have been worse is if they had turned it into a revival of the infamous 30-3 loss at the hands of the Rangers, which was also the first game of a twi-night doubleheader.
At times it seemed they were trying their best to re-live that particular game, especially in the ninth inning when the Jays scored five more runs. Things did not get quite that bad, but they also got far worse than a game ever should for any competent major league team. They ended up getting their butts beaten by a 15-2 margin.
The stakes for the game were fairly simple. The Jays, entering the day with a magic number of one, would clinch the American League East division title with a win. It would have been nice to see the Orioles come out and, with nothing to play for but pride, keep the Jays from getting the clincher in Camden Yards - or at least from their own doing, as of course a Yankees loss later tonight would have also helped them to clinch.
What they did instead was stink completely. They failed in every aspect of playing a baseball game. Starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez was a disaster area, getting bounced in less than four full innings of work. Pitching in relief, Jason Garcia gave up four runs in one inning of work, with a WHIP of 6. Even a reliever like Mike Wright who did not give up any runs in 1.1 innings still managed to walk two batters and give up two hits.
Their defensive game was also quite poor. Early on, when it looked like the outcome of the game might still be in doubt, Russell Martin hit a double with Edwin Encarnacion already on first base. The double went into the left field corner. Today's game 1 left fielder, Steve Pearce, took forever to get to the ball and fire it in to the cutoff man because this is the inevitable outcome when you play a first baseman in left field.
Pearce did at least hit the cutoff, in this case Manny Machado, though there was probably never a chance for even a good throw to get the lumbering Encarnacion at the plate. Machado threw home, with the ball sailing far above the reach of catcher Steve Clevenger. That let Martin advance. It was Machado's 21st error of the year. Martin later scored; his run was unearned due to the error giving him an extra base.
Later in the game, the O's managed to record two errors on the same play in a display of defensive butchery that you won't often see outside of a Little League field. With two outs and two men already on base in the fifth inning, Darwin Barney of the Jays hit a grounder back towards Garcia. He fielded the ball fine but then bounced his throw to first. Davis did not pick the ball. One run scored from this error.
After Davis retrieved the ball, despite the fact that neither Jays runner was attempting to advance on the play, Davis tried to throw to get somebody... and the throw instead went into the stands. Everyone scored. Barney hit a grounder to the pitcher and scored before the same play was over. That's going beyond your garden variety bad. That's embarrassingly terrible baseball being played.
On that note, Ryan Goins, who came in to this game batting .243/.313/.344 in 409 PA this season, went 5-5 with a walk. He is among the worst hitters of regular baseball players. Even when it came to this poor hitter, the Orioles were wholly incapable of retiring him one time in the afternoon game.
These horrible failures would have been sufficient to send the Orioles into the loss column and the Jays into celebration mode even if the Orioles had a decent offensive performance. They did not have a decent offensive performance, although they undoubtedly did have an offensive performance. Were it not for a seventh inning solo home run by Pearce, his 15th homer of the season, the Orioles would have been shut out at the hands of Marcus Stroman.
As it was, Stroman pitched eight innings and allowed only five hits and two walks in that time. The Orioles had nothing going against him. They had nothing going at all. They looked like a team that had no interest in playing a baseball game today - which is unfortunate for them since this is only the first of two they will have to play.
If there is any consolation to be had with this disgusting abomination of a game, it is this: By stinking horribly in the first game of this doubleheader, the Orioles have ensured that the Jays will not be able to have a full team, extended celebration of the clinching moment in the immediate aftermath of the game. They have to play another game in 30 minutes. It's really not much consolation at all.
When the day began, I was sad at the prospect of there being only six Orioles games remaining this season. After having watched this game, my opinion has changed. If this is representative of how they will play over the final week of the season, the end of the season can't get here soon enough.