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Orioles seventh inning meltdown sends them to 8-4 loss against Rangers

Orioles manager Buck Showalter gambled on his starting pitcher and on his mid-tier bullpen guys on Saturday night. It all failed horribly in a seventh inning meltdown and they lost, 8-4.

Pop quiz, hotshot. There's a bomb on a baseball game. Once your starting pitcher goes 100 pitches, the bomb is armed. If his velocity is below 90, it blows up. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?

If you're Orioles manager Buck Showalter in Texas on Saturday night, you let it ride on the starting pitcher, Yovani Gallardo. The bomb goes off. The game explodes. An absolutely disastrous, yet largely predictable, seventh inning doomed the Orioles to an 8-4 loss.

Of course it's all too easy to second-guess a manager. There is likely some reason that Showalter chose to try to ride Gallardo not only through the sixth inning but into the seventh inning as well. Maybe some combination of Brad Brach, Darren O'Day, and Zach Britton were limited or unavailable.

Gallardo + many pitches + 7th inning = NO

Whatever the case, what happened is that Gallardo, having thrown 96 pitches, started the seventh inning, and promptly walked the #9 hitter, backup catcher Brett Nicholas, on four pitches. You aren't going to get a clearer sign than that when it's time to pull your starter.

Gallardo hasn't retired a batter in the seventh inning since last June. Yet still Showalter left Gallardo in for another batter, Delino DeShields, who naturally doubled.

At this point in time the Orioles actually had a lead in the game, 4-2, which they built up against Rangers starter Colby Lewis, largely thanks to three solo home runs. Those were hit by Manny Machado, Adam Jones, and Chris Davis. The Jones home run was particularly impressive, a 460 foot blast up over the O's bullpen, which ESPN's Stats and Info said was the longest of his career.

Finally, belatedly, Showalter pulled Gallardo and brought in T.J. McFarland, who had been throwing for a while. McFarland... well, he didn't help much. He got a gentle grounder from his first batter and then McFarland forgot to cover first base, so everybody was safe. A run scored. The score was 4-3 and still there was no one out. Even when McFarland finally got an out, it was a groundout that still scored a run and tied the game.

McFarland walked Adrian Beltre intentionally, a fair idea in order to bring up another lefty, Mitch Moreland. He's supposed to get out lefties. Moreland doubled into the right field corner instead. The Rangers took a 5-4 lead. That was bad. It got worse.

When you have a designated hitter in right field

Showalter had seen enough of McFarland by then. He summoned Mychal Givens instead. Givens got a strikeout, which is what he does, but then he gave up a single to right.

As miscast right fielder Mark Trumbo charged the ball to try to stop Moreland from scoring on the play, the great sandworm Shai-Hulud broke up from underneath the earth and engulfed Trumbo whole. Even over the cheering crowd of 39,493, Trumbo's screams were audible as he disappeared into that yawning maw. He will grace the sands of Arrakis no more.

In actuality, Trumbo just somehow completely whiffed on the ball, which rolled all the way to the wall behind him. Rougned Odor ended up on third base and both of the other runners scored. Odor then went on to score on a single from Elvis Andrus. Just like that, the Orioles trailed 8-4. It escalated so quickly.

The Orioles could have scored more. Against Lewis, ten hits and two walks in six innings turned into four runs. You'd like more and they needed more - but if the bullpen had not been awful - or if the better relievers had been saved for this game, they would have been better off. Instead, all three of Brach, O'Day, and Britton pitch in Friday's 10-5 win, even after the game was beyond a save situation.

They were needed tonight and perhaps they were unavailable, though there's an off day on Monday and perhaps weather will wash away Sunday's game.

What turned into an ugly loss spoiled what would otherwise have been a nice win, with the three home runs serving as highlights as well as two absolutely sparkling defensive plays by Machado, who is so good I'm not entirely sure that we deserve him. Machado is a master at what he does and Orioles fans are lucky we get to watch him right now.

None of it was enough on Saturday night. It's hard for anything to be enough to overcome that kind of bullpen meltdown from the non-back end guys.

There will be many losses over a baseball season. Even a good team will lose plenty of games. As the cliche goes, every team will win 60 and every team will lose 60. It's what you do with the other 42 that matters. Hopefully for the Orioles, this was one of the 60 losses, rather than one of the ones that matters.

Weather permitting, they'll be back in action Sunday afternoon to close out this four game series against the Rangers. Mike Wright is scheduled to start the 3:05 game for the Orioles, with Derek Holland taking the mound for Texas.