The bell has tolled on the 2016 Orioles. They gave it a good run, all must admit, but what a maddening and frustrating wild card game it was. In the end, in the eleventh inning, with the Orioles never having used their elite closer Zach Britton, it was Ubaldo Jimenez who was summoned and who blew the game, one, two, three, kaboom. Season over.
It was a walkoff home run hit by Edwin Encarnacion and his damnable invisible parrot that did them in, and before that it was a bobbled ball in left field by Nolan Reimold, and before that it was Reimold pinch hitting and striking out on three pitches. Before THAT, it was the Orioles not getting a hit after the sixth inning.
Why did we never see Britton? Someone surely knows, but not the O’s fanbase. He warmed in the eighth inning. He was alive and in Canada, as far as anyone can tell. Yet there was no Britton in the only do-or-die game that the O’s played all year. No Britton against the top and the heart of the Jays lineup in the eleventh inning. It’s crazy.
They dodged so many bullets before it got to that point. It was like they were playing Russian roulette and finally they just ran out of empty chambers. The game nearly went kaput in the fifth inning as starting pitcher Chris Tillman, who wasn’t sharp, left the contest, but Mychal Givens got a first pitch double play ball.
It came even closer to spiraling out of control in the ninth inning, when Brad Brach, in his second inning of work, ran into trouble. A leadoff Josh Donaldson double was followed by an intentional walk to Encarnacion. Brach came through with a strikeout of Jose Bautista, then manager Buck Showalter summoned... Darren O’Day? Yes. And O’Day also got a first pitch double play ball.
They survived for quite a long time. They may have survived longer than they “should” have survived, the Orioles did - both in this game and in this season. Good teams with good players did not get so far. Yet the Orioles will go no farther.
The only offense the mustered in the game was, appropriately enough, a home run hit by Mark Trumbo in his postseason debut. He blasted that homer over the left field fence with Adam Jones on first base. Jones had led off the inning with the O’s first hit of the game.
You can get mad about Jimenez if you want, and he is certainly, regrettably the ultimate goat of the game, but why was he even there? Why did it even take eleven innings?
No team is going to win very many games where they get four hits in eleven innings. Four hits! That’s all that the Orioles offense could get. Added to one walk and they only safely reached base five times in the game. They came to the plate 38 times and reached base five times. That is a .132 on-base percentage for the game. Of course they lost. That’s the biggest recipe for the Orioles losing a game!
Could it have been any different? Was there any way the Orioles could have won the game like that? Maybe, if Tillman was perfect. He was not perfect. You can’t ever expect any pitcher to be perfect.
Tillman served up a solo home run to Bautista in the second inning to break the scoreless tie. Later, after the O’s had taken a 2-1 lead, Tillman started hurling up meatballs and Jays batters didn’t miss them. Michael Saunders hit a one out ground rule double.
Saunders ended up on third base after Kevin Pillar also doubled - a ball that should have been caught by Michael Bourn but was not. Saunders got a horrible read on the ball. Tillman did nothing with that reprieve, however, giving up a single to Ezequiel Carrera which plated the game’s tying run. So he was yanked from the game for Givens, who got the clutch double play.
Tillman’s final line was two runs on four hits and a walk in 4.1 innings. Not great. Not even good. It could have been good enough if the Orioles offense was able to do anything at all.
That’s really all there is to say about the game. The Orioles didn’t play as well as the Blue Jays did and they lost. That’s what is supposed to happen. The team that stinks should lose.
Before I leave off this final Orioles game recap of the year, a phrase that makes me sad to type, I would like to take this moment to say that Blue Jays fans, collectively, are really a new rising villain in Birdland. Some dickhead Canadian fan literally threw a fairly-full beer can at Hyun Soo Kim during a live play, a fly ball hit to Kim.
The fan appeared to have been arrested and surely is not representative of all Canadians or Blue Jays fans generally. A rational person would acknowledge that. A person who just watched his favorite baseball team’s season end will instead say that I hope that the Blue Jays get swept by the Rangers in the ALDS and never win another baseball game in the entirety of eternity.