Not many baseball teams are going to win many games where they only pick up four hits. That’s how the Orioles opened up their late August series against the Blue Jays in Baltimore on Monday night, dropping a 5-1 decision to increase the O’s deficit in the AL East to four games.
The lack of offense meant that the Orioles ended up wasting what was possibly the best start that Wade Miley has made since being traded to the Orioles. Miley was no slouch himself in the game, giving up just five hits over the seven innings he worked. Yes, the Orioles just pulled off back-to-back seven inning starts! That may be the only good news.
Unfortunately, two of the five hits Miley gave up were home runs, so he surrendered three runs and left with the Orioles trailing. Counting the nine strikeouts he picked up, it was an impressive outing, and one that, with the Orioles offense being what it is - or at least what it’s supposed to be - should be good enough most of the time.
Is it satisfying to say that, well, sometimes a good offense gets shut down? Even though that’s true, that doesn’t make it any easier to stomach when the Orioles lose a game as the season comes into its closing month. What is also true is what MASN’s Jim Hunter observed in the game’s final moments: This game represented the 35th time in 131 games that the O’s offense were held to two runs or fewer.
Sometimes, good pitching is good
It’s not like they got dominated by a scrub. Toronto’s Marco Estrada has done very well for himself this season and it was easy to see why tonight. The lone run Estrada gave up was a third inning home run hit by J.J. Hardy, a fly ball with just enough oomph to clear a leaping Melvin Upton.
The Orioles, if you can believe it, led 1-0 at this point in the game. Hardy’s home run was his eighth of the year, which also happens to be as many home runs as he hit over the course of all of last season.
From there, Estrada shut things down. Over his seven innings of work, Estrada gave up just four hits and a walk. You’re not going to get many scoring chances like that. The Orioles only had one at-bat with a runner in scoring position in the game, in fact. That makes for a tough task to win, even if your own starter has a good game, as Miley did. Solo home runs by Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista - two good hitters who are going to hit homers, much as it pains Orioles fans to admit - constituted most of the damage Miley allowed.
The 3-7 hitters for the Orioles went 0 for the entire game! What else can you say? It happens... though it seems to be happening a whole lot for the Orioles of late. Not all of that is because of Adam Jones being out of the lineup with his hamstring issue for a third consecutive game, or because Jonathan Schoop and his .262 post-All-Star OBP batted leadoff in this game.
The outcome is frustrating when combined with a good effort from a starter. That’s the way it goes sometimes.
Hoping for luck to turn around
Maybe it wasn’t even all the Orioles’ fault. They struck out “only” seven times in the game, really not very many for them. What that means is that, when you take out those strikeouts and Hardy’s homer, there were 20 balls put in play for outs and three put in play for hits. That is a BABIP for the game of .130.
If you had the misfortune of watching the game, you saw more than one play where a reasonably well-struck ball happened to go right to a fielder, including a line drive double play hit right by Matt Wieters to Justin Smoak in the seventh inning, erasing a leadoff walk. It was one of those plays that makes you think, “Of COURSE that happened.”
The Jays deserve the credit for some of that. It’s not all luck when the fielder is in the right place at the right time. That’s partly good positioning by the defense, or a good job by the pitcher pitching to his defense. But a .130 BABIP is not normal. That’s luck that ought to even out, eventually. Maybe not in this series, when the Orioles need it, and maybe not in time to save their hopes for the season, but eventually!
Well, the problem with relying on some pending regression is that the possibility also exists that this type of game is, in fact, the regression for previous unsustainably good luck on the part of the Orioles offense.
Not that it ended up mattering, since the three runs were all the Jays needed on Monday, but the final two Jays runs scored in the top of the ninth as the Jays strung together a walk and two hits off of Tommy Hunter. Hunter did not go boom, exactly, in that he surrendered no homers, but every ball on the ground found a hole. There’s that BABIP luck again.
As of this writing, every team that the Orioles need to lose for the wild card race is winning or has already won, except for the Yankees, who are losing to the Royals, another team the Orioles need to lose.
There will be rest for neither the weary nor the wicked for the O’s tomorrow. They will be going up against a tough lefty in J.A. Happ. It’s weird to refer to Happ as a tough lefty, but when it’s late August and a guy has a 3.19 ERA, that mostly speaks for itself. Plus, the Orioles continue to be the worst-hitting team, by OPS, against lefty pitchers in the whole AL.
And who is countering Happ for the O’s in the 7:05 game? None other than Ubaldo Jimenez. I know, that’s what I said too.