Baseball can really be an annoying game. The Orioles, as good as they can be, are not immune to this. They played one of those annoying games against the Rangers on Monday night in Arlington and the O’s were losers by a 4-3 score.
The game happening at all on this day was annoying enough. It was, after all, a makeup of a postponed game. That postponement occurred even though, by the time it was the scheduled first pitch on April 17, the rain had stopped. So for literally no good reason, the Orioles were forced to disrupt their schedule, losing an off day for a one day trip to Texas.
This was surely some kind of contributing factor in why the Orioles looked discombobulated at times. They probably were discombobulated. Not that it’s any excuse, because it doesn’t take away the loss from the standings, but it is something to cling to and think this won’t happen in more ordinary circumstances.
What makes it more annoying than anything is that it didn’t even have to be a bad game. Going up against the worst Rangers starter by ERA, Derek Holland, the Orioles had a prime chance to finally rack up some runs in support of a Kevin Gausman start.
The Orioles were plainly swinging early against Holland and they started to make that work in the second inning. Jonathan Schoop led off the inning with a single and he scored on a J.J. Hardy double, giving the O’s the lead with no outs. Two more runs crossed in the inning, with Adam Jones driving in Hardy on a single and Joey Rickard driving in Jones on a double.
What would Gausman do with actual run support? Hold that thought for a minute.
The bad news
The very next inning saw the Orioles with a chance to add on even more runs. Mark Trumbo walked to begin the inning, and back-to-back singles by Matt Wieters and Schoop loaded the bases with no one out.
This is as prime of a scoring opportunity as you can get... unless you’re an Orioles team that’s not homering. Hardy struck out on a ball out of the zone and Nolan Reimold grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Momentum is not a real concept, but sometimes it feels real, and blowing a bases loaded opportunity is one of those times where that kind of shift feels real.
In the half inning after the O’s wrecked their scoring chance, Gausman gave up a deep home run to center field to Ian Desmond - the 11th home run of the year for the Rangers unexpected center fielder. Whatever, it happens sometimes - good hitters get hits.
The problem was the next inning after that. Gausman began the inning by walking Prince Fielder. Here’s the thing. Don’t walk Fielder in 2016. He’s bad and has no bat speed. Throw strikes. The guy is slugging .310. This was ridiculous.
From here, Gausman started to fall apart in Ubaldan fashion, chucking up hittable pitches that the Rangers hitters didn’t miss. They got their own bases loaded chance with one out thanks to Elvis Andrus and Mitch Moreland singling to put ducks all around the pond.
No big deal, right? Gausman would just have to make some pitches against Bobby Wilson, the catcher and #9 hitter with a career OPS of .581. Gausman quickly got an 0-2 count on Wilson, but then Wilson started fouling off pitch after pitch, six foul balls in all, before finally lofting a ball to deep center field.
An easy sacrifice fly. The crappy-hitting catcher did what the Orioles could not and put the ball in the air. Oh, and with the slow Fielder running, Jones made the ill-advised decision to try to fire the ball wildly in towards the plate. This allowed the runner to advance from first to second as Fielder scored - the go-ahead run in scoring position.
That proved crucial after the next batter, Shin-Soo Choo, pulled a single into right field. Had Moreland stayed on first, there’s no way he would have scored. Instead, he scored easily to put the Rangers ahead, 4-3, which if you were paying attention earlier, you already know was the decisive run in the contest.
There were other wasted opportunities. The Orioles actually out-hit the Rangers in the game, 15-9, but they only batted 3-11 with runners in scoring position - and one of those hits didn’t even score a run.
Holland came out of the game in the fifth inning, relieved by Shawn Tolleson, who began the night with an 8.02 ERA in 24 games pitched. The kind of guy you want to do something against - like Reimold leading off the inning with a single.
However, for some unknown reason, the Orioles decided to try a hit-and-run or run-and-hit or some other boneheaded play with Paul Janish at the plate. Don’t try plays when Janish is the batter. Janish swung through a bad pitch to feel obligated to swing at and Reimold was thrown out easily at second base. Dumb. Janish later got a hit and did not advance further.
For all of that, the Orioles managed to get the tying run to third base with only one out in the ninth inning. Chris Davis hit a single and with an impressive display of hustle, motored to third base when Trumbo followed with a hit behind him. There was some hope, but not for long. Wieters struck out. Schoop chopped a ball to third base for a fielder’s choice and that was that. The Orioles lost.
That’s the bad news.
The good news
The good news is that the Orioles played a sloppy game full of wasted opportunities against the team with the best record in the American League, under less-than-ideal travel circumstances, while their best player, Manny Machado, was serving the second game of his four game suspension, and the Orioles only lost that game by one run.
That silver lining doesn’t erase any loss from the standings, either, but it’s something. Put in Machado and maybe they win. A couple of players make a couple of better decisions and maybe they win. Hope for next time.
More good news is that while the Orioles were playing this game, the Red Sox blew their own gift scoring chance - it was even worse for them. In Boston, the game was tied 1-1 in the 9th and a White Sox reliever walked the bases loaded, but the Red Sox could not walk off and they went on to lose 3-1. So the O’s lose no ground against their closest competition.
Oh, and relieving Gausman was Dylan Bundy, who actually kind of looked good out there. Bundy finished off the final three innings of the game, big for saving the bullpen for the rest of the week. He retired all nine Rangers he faced, picking up three strikeouts. That’s something.
But the Orioles still lost, Gausman is still winless on the year, and they still have to fly right back to Baltimore and play a game again tomorrow night with no rest.
It’s the Padres coming to town for two games. Tyler Wilson is scheduled to start the 7:05 opener for the O’s, with Luis Perdomo - he of an 8.79 ERA - taking the mound for the Padres.