What do you do when you lose a game you really ought to win? You better win a game that you would otherwise be expected to lose. The Orioles flushed away one of the few games that, on paper, at least, looked like a gimme that remain to them in the regular season, blowing key moments and generally stinking against a starting pitcher who’s been bad for the last month as they fell to the Rays, 5-2, on Saturday night.
What a mess. This should have been the cakewalk series where the Orioles rack up the wins against the cellar-dwelling Rays. They’ve now lost two of the first three games of the series and Wade Miley is pitching tomorrow. Yowza!
It was one of those games that was so bad that the specifics almost don’t matter. How in the world does the Orioles offense, even bereft of Mark Trumbo, manage to pick up only seven hits for an entire game when the game was started by Matt Andriese?
How did they make Andriese only throw 68 pitches to get through the 5.1 innings he pitched? What the heck were these dopes doing tonight?
The Adam Jones Theory of Everything
The answer lies, most likely, in the postulate laid forth by Adam Jones earlier this season. In what I have deemed the Adam Jones Theory of Everything, he rather memorably stated, “Sometimes you suck.” It applies to baseball and life, he argued. Sometimes you suck. And so the Orioles did on Saturday night.
They only managed to have three at-bats with a runner in scoring position for the entirety of the game. They blew every one of those chances. Only one Oriole walked across the whole game, so for the batters, their WHIP was under 1 for an entire game. You’re not going to win many games like that...
...except, as it turned out, the Rays, improbably, had even fewer hits than the Orioles! They were out-hit, 7-6, yet the Rays got five runs out of their six hits while the Orioles got just two runs out of their seven. And Orioles pitchers only walked two batters, so it’s not like that made any difference - nor did the fact that Chris Tillman hit two Rays batters, because neither one of them ended up coming around to score.
If you can believe it, the Orioles actually led the game 2-0, at one point in time. They managed to do this by scratching out a run in both the first inning and the third inning, picking up sacrifice flies with a man on third base and less than two out - the exact stuff that they frustratingly could not accomplish in key moments in Thursday’s loss.
Longoria vs. Tillman = bad news
That was good for a little while, and then Tillman had to pitch against Evan Longoria. There is no batter in all of baseball who has faced Tillman more than Longoria. That matchup has not gone well for Tillman. In 65 plate appearances heading into the game, Longoria had batted .283/.338/.700. How does a guy slug .700 against a good pitcher in such a large sample size?
Those numbers will be going up, because Longoria only continued that dominance against Tillman on Saturday night, and it’s the sole reason why the O’s were unable to hold their early lead. In his second at-bat of the night, Longoria rocked a line drive into right field that was sinking in front of right fielder Michael Bourn. Bourn dove for the ball, a heroic try, but he missed and the ball got by him and the result was a triple.
The next batter, Brad Miller, bounced a little grounder to first base which for some reason Chris Davis decided to try to turn into an out at the plate. He failed. The Rays were on the board. This was a horrible decision that didn’t end up costing the Orioles much because Miller did not end up scoring. Get the sure out at first base! Don’t get too cute.
Of course, maybe the bumbling, along with Tillman’s two hit by pitches, ultimately cost them by ensuring that Longoria would bat again sooner. When Longoria led off the sixth inning, Tillman put a 3-1 count on him before making a mistake that Longoria crushed just barely inside the left field foul pole. With a full count, Tillman made an even worse mistake and left a pitch right in Longoria’s wheelhouse, with almost no movement whatsoever, and it was launched into the Rays bullpen.
So much for that lead. Even here, with Tillman seeming to be towards the end of his tank, it was only after a Miller infield single that Tommy Hunter began to warm in the Orioles bullpen. Despite a ten pitch at-bat to Corey Dickerson, which saw Tillman uncork a wild pitch to advance the runner, manager Buck Showalter left in Tillman, who was up over 100 pitches, to try to get out of his own mess.
Maybe not a bad plan, right? Especially as the bottom of the lineup was coming up. Tillman only had to retire Steven Souza, which he did when Manny Machado speared a line drive. So now Tillman just had to get out Richie Shaffer, a career sub-.200 batter in 92 at-bats. He is definitely the exact batter you’d expect the Orioles best starter to be able to get out, just on principle.
But maybe not when Tillman was tiring, on a night where he didn’t seem to have his greatest stuff? Shaffer ripped a line drive that soared over the head of Adam Jones in center field. The go-ahead run scored easily. Only then was Tillman pulled.
The Rays tack on runs late
In the eighth inning, Oliver Drake happened and two more Rays runs crossed the plate, not that either of the runs really mattered since the Orioles offense didn’t have a runner in scoring position after the third inning.
And really it wasn’t Drake’s fault entirely - both runs were unearned after Davis booted a routine grounder by Longoria to lead off the inning. Drake later walking Shaffer and giving up a two run single to Mikie Mahtook was all him, though. The runs were unearned because they crossed with two outs after the earlier error.
So that was that game. It sucked. Tomorrow’s not looking much better if Miley pitches like Miley has pitched in an Orioles uniform. Jake Odorizzi is set to oppose him in the 1:35 series finale.
If the Orioles can’t at least split the series, that’s going to be dang embarrassing for them. But for tonight, at least, their wild card fortunes are not damaged one bit. The Tigers lost, the Mariners lost, and the Blue Jays are losing 6-0 in the eighth. The Orioles remain tied with the Jays if that result holds, and are still three games up on Detroit, Seattle, and now Houston, with 14 games to play.
Just stop losing to the Rays already. For crying out loud. It’s horrible.