The bad version of the Orioles offense showed up again on Saturday night in Chicago. Against a White Sox starter, Carlos Rodon, who has been mediocre so far in 2016, the Orioles never really got anything going. They mustered only six hits in a 4-2 loss.
The silver lining for the Orioles about the Saturday loss is that both of their division competitors, the Blue Jays and the Red Sox, were also beaten on Saturday. That means the O’s preserve a tie atop the AL East with Toronto - in fact a very slight lead by percentage points - and keep a two game lead over Boston.
Orioles starter Chris Tillman was foiled for a third straight start in his bid to pick up his 15th win of the season. Most of the time with the O’s offense, you would think a six inning, three run effort would be enough to win. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work out that way every time.
How to blow early chances
The game did not begin looking like a sad show for the Orioles. Adam Jones led off the game with a double. A Jonathan Schoop single set up the Orioles with men on first and third and nobody out before Rodon struck out the next three batters in succession. In fact, Rodon retired the next ten Orioles after the first-and-third situation.
One way to look at that is that the Orioles blew a big chance, which, well, they did. Another way to look at it is that Rodon was just very good early on, because Jones’ double was a lucky slice down the right field line that should have been caught, and Schoop’s single was a line drive to center field that probably should have been caught as well.
Naturally, after the Orioles failed at their gifted chance in the first inning, White Sox leadoff man Tim Anderson greeted Tillman with a double. White Sox #2 batter Melky Cabrera also greeted Tillman with a double, so the Orioles were losing 1-0 after two batters.
Later on, in the third inning, Tillman allowed a solo home run to Chicago’s #9 batter, Tyler Saladino. If ever there was a player who sounds like someone you shouldn’t be allowing to homer, #9 batter Tyler Saladino is it. He homered off of Tillman anyway and the Orioles trailed against the cruising Rodon.
All tied up
The Orioles did scratch and claw their way back to a tie score with a run in the fourth and a run in the sixth. A fourth inning rally got started with one out. Mark Trumbo singled and moved up to second with a wild pitch. The slumping Chris Davis worked a walk to put two men on base for July’s hot hitter, J.J. Hardy.
Hardy rocked a double to right field. Unfortunately for the Orioles, the ball bounced high enough that it went up into the stands, preventing Davis from scoring on the ground rule double. Nolan Reimold failed to extend the rally.
When the O’s scored their second run, Hardy was also the one who got involved. A Manny Machado single, an error on a ball hit by Steve Pearce, and another Davis walk loaded the bases for the O’s with just one out.
Hardy hit a ball very similar to his previous double, except this time the White Sox right fielder ran down the ball. Machado scored easily from third, turning the ball into a sacrifice fly. Reimold struck out, again failing to extend a rally.
The game of inches
Tillman only pitched for six innings but he actually came out to start the seventh inning. The problem was that he did not retire either of the two batters he faced. Tillman was lifted for Mychal Givens, who then allowed a third consecutive single to the first batter he faced.
Bases loaded with no one out is not what you want to see. Chicago’s catcher, Omar Narvaez, floated a ball the opposite way down the left field line. Machado, chasing backwards, got very close to making a catch but the ball dropped in - foul, initially called on the field.
However, the White Sox challenged the play because the ball appeared to kick up some chalk as it landed. Take a look for yourself. Looks pretty straightforward, although there ended up being a several minute replay, maybe over whether Narvaez should get one or two bases.
After the game, manager Buck Showalter said that the ball deflecting off Machado’s glove - which you can also see a bit in the slow motion of the video - should have been addressed, though to these eyes, it looks like if anything, Machado’s little deflection took the ball closer to foul territory.
The end result of the play is that the umpires awarded Narvaez a single, scoring a run and moving everyone else up by a base, still with the bases loaded and nobody out. Givens got serious and went on to strike out the next three batters he faced.
The Orioles offense being what it was on Saturday night, that was enough for the White Sox to win, though just for good measure, Adam Eaton blasted the first pitch he saw from Vance Worley in the eighth inning into the right field seats, setting up the final score of 4-2.
After the sixth inning, the Orioles did not get another runner into scoring position. You can sometimes get away with that in a game where you are winning and can deploy your good relievers. When you’re losing, well, it doesn’t work out so great.
Reimold walked to lead off the ninth inning, so the O’s were at least able to bring the tying run to the plate with no one out. Pinch hitter Pedro Alvarez hit into a fielder’s choice that might have been a double play if not for a dropped transfer. Jones hit into an actual double play to end the game.
James Shields, who’s been bad in 2016 but had a good July, awaits in the series finale on Sunday afternoon at 2:10. Dylan Bundy gets the start for the Orioles, looking to build on a great last start.