When you’re a team looking to possibly clinch a postseason spot during the season’s final weekend, you probably want to win the game when the other team’s starting pitcher has an ERA closer to 6 than 5.
That was the situation that the Orioles found themselves in on Saturday afternoon against the Yankees. They led at one point in the game, 3-0, and when you get down to it, they probably should have won. But they didn’t win, so now instead they’ll be relying on other teams to lose in order to keep the wild card lead that they so tenuously gained on Friday night.
It was one of “those” games at a time when the team could least afford it. You know the ones I mean. Boneheaded baserunning blunders, the starting pitcher left in for maybe two batters too long, questionable defensive plays, and, oh yeah, a generally reliable reliever totally melting down to blow the game in the eighth inning.
Well... if you’ve been watching enough of Brad Brach in the second half of this season, you maybe have moved him out of the “generally reliable reliever” column already before today. Summoned with one out in the eighth inning to preserve a 3-3 tie, Brach had one of those games where he just had nothing.
Within the span of three batters, Brach had given up two runs and the Orioles were abruptly behind. By the time the dust settled, with Oliver Drake called upon (and failing) to limit the damage, the Orioles trailed by the 7-3 margin that was the final score of the game.
Where did it all go wrong? Maybe Mychal Givens, who got three outs in the seventh in the span of 11 pitches, could have been called upon to start the eighth as well. Maybe Donnie Hart, who retired Brian McCann, could have been left in to face righty batters.
Maybe, back in the seventh inning, Wade Miley should not have come out with 99 pitches already thrown to get through six. Be happy when you get a two runs in six innings outing from Miley, right? Manager Buck Showalter pressed his luck into the seventh, with the bottom of the Yankees lineup due up.
Perhaps not a bad plan, when it works. Alas, Saturday was not one of those games. After getting a 1-2 count on Yankees first baseman Tyler Austin, Miley threw a couple of balls and then, on a full count, gave up the game-tying home run. That’s not the guy you want to have hit the critical home run. Don’t be beaten by Tyler Austin! That’s ridiculous.
Why press Miley into the seventh? September bullpens are available! Of course, given how the bullpen situation worked out, maybe you can understand why Buck wanted to leave Miley in. As it is, Miley ended up giving up three runs in six-plus innings, a bare minimum quality start, but acceptable for Miley. He allowed nine hits and a walk and struck out nine. The Orioles should win when they get an outing like that from Miley. And yet...
Maybe the Orioles should have scored more than three runs. Oh, they definitely should have scored more than three runs. Better if they had gotten more runs instead of shutting down after scoring three off of Luis Severino, who left the game after 3.2 innings of work having given up five hits and two walks.
Instead, from the fourth inning to the eighth inning, the Orioles had only one at-bat with a runner in scoring position - and that at-bat was a J.J. Hardy ground ball that turned into a double play. In the ninth inning, after the game had been blown, Michael Bourn led off with a single and took second by fielder’s indifference.
Rather than sparking a rally, the next three batters struck out against Yankees closer Dellin Betances and the game was over just like that. It doesn’t mean a whole lot that Manny Machado hit his 37th home run of the year. It doesn’t matter that Mark Trumbo had four hits. They lost and now they’re going to have to wait to find out whether other teams lose for them.
The Blue Jays are playing the Red Sox on Saturday night. The Tigers are playing the Braves, and on the very fringe, still alive, the Mariners are playing the Athletics. If the Orioles are lucky, all three of the teams they need to lose will lose.
If the Orioles are unlucky, they will find themselves entering their final game of the regular season tied in the loss column with two other teams. The good news is that the critical Sunday game will be started by Kevin Gausman. All MLB games will be beginning at 3:05pm so that everyone is in action at the same time. They didn’t win today and now they must win tomorrow.