Anyone who’s ever played a sports video game against the AI knows that sometimes there are games where the system just decides, you know what, there’s no way the player is winning this game. That’s the kind of game that happened to the Orioles on Thursday night and they were on the wrong end of all of the chicanery, losing the finale, 5-3.
If you only look at the box score, you might think that the Orioles trade deadline acquisition, Wade Miley, did not have a very good debut. Certainly, giving up four earned runs on eight hits in five innings of work is not a good game. Surely he could have done better than he did, yet the key scoring plays against him were very heavily influenced by bad batted ball luck.
And Mileys to go before I sleep
It’s not like Miley was pitching a perfect game before he ran into some bad luck. No. He faced a deficit before the BABIP dragon ever arrived on the field. New Rangers catcher Jonathan Lucroy broke the scoreless tie in the top of the second inning with his first home run as a member of the Rangers.
The inning after that saw the Rangers score again. The struggling Delino DeShields led off the inning with a sky-high double that was just too far away from Hyun Soo Kim for Kim to run down. Two consecutive groundouts advanced and then scored DeShields.
While all of this was going on, the Orioles were flailing pathetically against the offerings of Rangers starter A.J. Griffin. Sometimes it seems like anyone who can throw an off-speed pitch in the 60-69mph range is instant kryptonite for the Orioles offense, so as soon as Griffin spun in such slow breakers, there was a feeling of dread there.
Miley at least kept the game fairly close until either fate, luck, the universe, or his teammates let him down, depending on how you care to apportion the blame.
The top of the fifth was the bad inning. Elvis Andrus led off the inning with a double, taking that extra base by catching Adam Jones napping a bit in center field. This didn’t hurt the O’s any, at least - a failed DeShields bunt right back to Miley led to Andrus being tagged out at third base.
After Shin-Soo Choo singled to put men on first second, Miley got Ian Desmond to hit a ground ball almost right at Chris Davis that should have been an inning-ending double play.
However, the ball rolled towards Davis in such a way that Choo, the runner on first, seemed to screen Davis from seeing the ball and Davis whiffed on his attempt to field the ball.
The grounder rolled into right field and scored DeShields, putting the Rangers up 3-0. More bad luck, or bad play, followed: Carlos Beltran flared a ball into the no man’s land between second base and right field. Jonathan Schoop, rushing back to field the ball, sprinted far enough to make a play on the ball, but when Schoop reached out for a basket catch, he missed.
Another run scored on the play and the Orioles were staring at a 4-0 deficit.
Miley’s night came to a close after five innings in part because the last play of the top of the fifth was a ground ball off Miley’s foot. He had to limp a bit back to the dugout, though manager Buck Showalter after the game said he expects Miley to make his next start.
The boom-or-bust offense when it busts
The Orioles followed up that frustrating inning by scoring a couple of runs - making the bad luck or bad defense be all the more frustrating. It’s one thing if you have bad luck when you’re getting shut out. You were going to lose anyway. Once you’re on the board, suddenly the runs already allowed matter even more.
The bottom of the fifth inning opened up with Mark Trumbo and Pedro Alvarez going back-to-back to put the Orioles on the board. What might instead have been a 2-2 tie was a 4-2 hole for the O’s.
This was the kind of game that was the Orioles’ boom-or-bust offense at its finest. There was a lot of bust. You can’t even say that the Orioles blew their scoring chances because they did not have any.
The Orioles had exactly zero at-bats in the entire game with a runner in scoring position. No one who did not hit a home run ever reached second base. That’s ridiculous. It’s not like Griffin is Cy Young out here. The Rangers, by comparison, had 16 at-bats with runners in scoring position and they capitalized with hits in three of those situations, scoring a run each time.
Even when the Orioles did get a runner on base, the runner didn’t tend to last very long. The O’s hitters grounded into three double plays over the course of the game. They left four men on base. You’re not going to win many games with so few runners.
Hyun Soo Kim made it a 4-3 game with a sixth inning home run, the first that Kim has hit at Camden Yards. Kim also had a single in the game, while Alvarez, who hit his 16th home run earlier in the game, turned in a three hit game. Those guys were the Orioles offense on Thursday night.
The home run drought of Davis continues. He hasn’t blasted a bomb since before the All-Star break. Things are not faring much better for Matt Wieters, who went 0-4 in the game and only saw seven pitches. Wieters is batting .129 since the beginning of July. Manny Machado, a .209 batter since July 1, is not so much better off.
If the Blue Jays beat the Astros later Thursday night, the Orioles and Jays will be tied in the standings, though the O’s will at least hold the edge by percentage points as the Jays are one back in the loss column.
Is Chicago, the land of deep dish pizza and hot dogs with way too much stuff on them, going to be the place to spark some of these slumping hitters? The O’s head there next. I won’t hold my breath. The series-opening game on Friday at 8:10 Eastern will see Yovani Gallardo start for the O’s, with old friend Miguel Gonzalez pitching for the White Sox.