“And a very Happy Independence Day, wherever you may be.” Vin Scully greeted us on the LA radio and TV broadcast, slightly changing his usual “And a very pleasant good evening, wherever you may be.” It’s a greeting O’s fans haven’t heard much, as the Orioles have only been in LA for games against the Dodgers in the 2004 regular season and 1966 World Series.
The Orioles had their work cut out for them as they visited Chavez Ravine. The Dodgers had won last nine straight at home, 17 of 20 going into tonight. Those streaks would be extended, mostly due to an inability by the Orioles to get even six innings from a starter, again, and a balk call that seemed to come out of nowhere.
The Calm Before The Storm
The first inning went by pretty fast for the Orioles, as Adam Jones, Jon Schoop and Manny Machado all lined out and did so on 10 total pitches. It looked like Julio Urias was going to throw a Maddox - a complete game shutout in under 100 pitches.
The Dodger’s didn’t do much more in the bottom of the 1st, as Chase Utley managed an infield hit against the O’s shift, and Adrian Gonzalez worked a walk, but Yovani Gallardo manged to escape the first inning unscathed. Since his first inning ERA is usually 12.80 and he has a .455 BAA, you can live with a 20-pitch scoreless inning.
The second inning wouldn’t be as boring. Mark Trumbo notched the first O’s hit of the night to right field. Chris Davis followed with a walk, and both runners managed to move up on a fly ball to semi-deep right field.
Yasiel Puig, as is his wont, threw through to third base rather than try and stop the runner at first base from advancing. The throw back to second base by Justin Turner just missed getting the trail runner, and suddenly the O’s had runners at third and second with just one out.
J.J. Hardy saw nine pitches before he laced the 10th pitch for a double to drive the two runners in. Thanks, Yasiel. The O’s weren’t done. Joey Rickard saw eight pitches of his own and lifted a fly ball to left field to advance JJ Hardy.
In just those two batters, Urias threw almost twice as many pitchers as he threw in the first inning. And he wasn’t out of trouble yet. He proceeded to walk the next batter, THE PITCHER Yovani Gallardo on his fourth full count in nine batters. At this point, he’d thrown 35 pitches in the inning and still had an out to go.
Adam Jones then singled to center field, and a horrendous throw by Trayce Thompson allowed J.J. Hardy to score. The O’s were up 3-0 against the promising Dodgers rookie, and things were looking good in Los Angeles. Jon Schoop struck out swinging and the inning ended, but not before Julio Urias had thrown an astonishing 41 pitches in just that inning.
Anything You Can Do, Yovani Gallardo Can Do Worse
So the O’s had the Dodgers starter on the ropes, a 3-0 lead, and Gallardo had thrown a not-panic-inducing 20 pitches in the first frame, and more importantly, no one had scored. That soon changed, as he threw a simply horrible 77 mph changeup belt high to Yasiel Puig, who destroyed it to center field for a home run. Gallardo followed that up with an even worse 88 mph fastball to Yasmani Grandal, who sent it over the RF wall near the fair pole. A 3-0 lead was now 3-2, and all of a sudden, this game didn’t look so great anymore.
The third inning didn’t see any scoring by either club, as the O’s went down 1-2-3 with Machado, Trumbo and Davis as Vin Scully reminded listeners that the last batter Sandy Koufax struck out in his career was Jim Palmer in the World Series. Gallardo managed to get three outs in four batters, but had still thrown 61 pitches in just 3.0 IP - just 3 fewer than Urias had thrown to that point.
Joey Rickard came to bat in the 4th inning after Matt Wieters had singled and J.J. Hardy had doubles, leaving two runners in scoring position. He looked pretty bad on a 75 mph breaking ball for a strike, then Urias did the one thing you just can’t do with Joey Rickard batting - throw him a fastball in.
It’s literally the only pitch he can hit for any power, and when Joey got that 92 mph fastball in, he crushed it to the left center field gap. The O’s think so little of Trayce Thompson’s arm they sent J.J. Hardy from second base to home, and he scored easily. The O’s were up 5-2, Urias hit the showers after just 3.1 IP and five runs, and it’s looking like sunshine and rainbows in L.A. for the Orioles.
Not so fast.
Louis Coleman came in and got Adam Jones and Jon Schoop to ground out and fly out respectively. And little did we know it, but the O’s would not score again.
Jim Palmer opened the bottom of the fourth inning asking if there was such as thing as a shutdown inning for the Orioles. The answer, of course, is no. Yasiel Puig singled to left field, and after two strikeouts to give up all a sense of false hope, Gallardo uncorked a wild pitch to advance Puig to second base, and walked Scott Van Slyke in the same at-bat.
Chase Utley came on and did what undying vampires, I mean veteran hitters do and singled to left field to score Puig, and Rookie of the Year candidate Corey Seager showed why he is a RoY candidate and drove in Van Slyke. At this point, Gallardo had thrown 88 pitches and had 11 outs to show for it.
Another full count to former Oriole Justin Turner leads to a pop out, but Gallardo’s thrown 95 pitches to get 12 outs. The O’s 5-4 lead was not long for this world.
Battle of the Bullpens
One thing the Orioles pride themselves on is the bullpen, but it met its match tonight. The Dodgers used five relievers to cover the remaining 5.2 innings, and didn’t surrender a run while doing it. Pedro Baez dispatched Manny Machado, Trumbo and Davis on just 10 pitches in the 5th inning, and did it again in the 6th, throwing just nine pitches to retire the side.
Mychal Givens gave the O’s a scoreless inning of relief, and despite the preponderance of left-handed batters in the Dodgers lineup, got throw his inning unscathed.
Then Odrisamer Despaigne came on to pitch. He would not escape unscathed. After a leadoff walk to Yasmani Grandal, Despaigne induced a ground ball from Will Venable that seemed tailor made for a double play. But Jon Schoop double-clutched, and only got the lead runner.
With Venable now at first base, Despaigne was called for a balk by Mark Carlson for honestly no discernible reason. Despaigne clearly stopped during his delivery and made no motion toward first base. Seriously, your guess is as good as mine as to why Carlson made the call.
With the runner now at second base, and fireworks starting to explode in the distance in communities around Dodger Stadium, Chase Utley fired up the home crowd with an RBI single to center field. Adam Jones threw in, Manny Machado raced over from third base to cut it off just behind the mound on the second base side and fired a throw to J.J. Hardy to tag the advancing Utley. But the damage was done, the run had scored. and the game was now tied.
The Dodgers had attacked the underbelly of the Orioles bullpen, already short-handed with the loss of Darren O’Day, and drew blood. They weren’t done.
No Late Inning Heroics For The Birds
Joe Blanton came on to pitch for the Dodgers in the 7th inning, and did what the two relievers before him and the two relievers after him would do - keep the Orioles off the scoreboard. Hyun-Soo Kim, who entered the game as part of a double-switch, singled to left, and Jon Schoop singled to left as well to put runners on first and second with just one out, but Machado and Trumbo couldn’t cash them in.
When Despaigne came back for the 7th, the game already felt like it was slipping away. Corey Seager applied the WD-40 needed in the form of a triple to lead off the inning, and he was driven home by Justin Turner. The Dodgers had the lead at 6-5, and they wouldn’t look back.
Adam Libertore entered the game for the Dodgers with a 0.68 ERA and it went down when he was done with the 8th inning.
Somehow, Despaigne started the 8th. It felt like a white flag, and the had the effect of one. Adam Jones made a terrific Superman jump to snag a fly ball by Grandal, but a full-count walk to pinch hitter Chris Taylor was followed by a double by Howie Kenrdick to score the Dodger’s seventh run. Jayson Aquino did make his Major League debut for the O’s in the 8th to clean up Despainge’s mess.
By the time closer Kenley Jansen entered in the 9th inning, the game felt already over. Right-handed batters are batting just .117 against him, and the O’s didn’t change that tonight. Ryan Flaherty went up as a left-handed bat for the pitcher, and he looked like someone who hadn’t batted since June 22.
A looking strikeout later, Hyun-Soo Kim struck out on possibly the worst swing we’ve seen him take since Spring Training, and by the time Adam Jones was swinging like he wanted to hit a five-run home run with the bases empty, the result was a foregone conclusion. A popup to Jansen, and the game was over.
The balk call didn’t cost the O’s the game. That was lost when the O’s had yet another starter not make it to the 6th inning. Chris Tillman has a large task in front of him tomorrow - make great pitches, and keep making them into at least the 7th inning. Here’s hoping he can. or this five game losing streak will probably reach six.