There must be something about Toronto that’s just kryptonite for Buck Showalter’s bullpen decisions. The Orioles lost to the Blue Jays on Saturday, a 2-1 defeat when Tyler Wilson threw a meatball to Kendrys Morales for the first pitch of the ninth inning, Brad Brach had been warming.
The almost instant walkoff served to quickly dampen the spirits right after the O’s had rallied to tie the game in the top of the ninth inning against Jays closer Roberto Osuna in very un-Oriole-like fashion. An infield single, a pinch runner, a stolen base, and then two consecutive flyouts that advanced the runner and scored him.
That pinch runner was Craig Gentry, who has yet to be on base except as a pinch runner. He manufactured a run almost by himself. The Orioles just don’t have fast guys. Gentry made that run happen and within five minutes it didn’t matter. The Orioles lost. Of course you can’t win them all, but does it have to be so annoying when they lose?
The fifth starter was... good?
If you weren’t following all the ins and outs of Dan Duquette’s myriad roster moves during spring training and since, you may not have even noticed when they acquired Alec Asher on March 28. It was Asher, a soft-tossing sinkerballer, who emerged from the pile to get the first start for the O’s fifth rotation spot.
Maybe it’s because the Jays offense is stuck deep in the doldrums or maybe it’s because Asher was just ready to dominate on this particular day. Maybe it’s some of both.
Whatever it was, Asher was firing on all cylinders, turning in what was also a very un-Oriole-like outing: 6.1 innings, just three hits and one walk. Of the 23 batters Asher faced, he threw a first pitch strike to 17 of them. This was not the fifth starter that I spent all spring dreading.
Baseball isn’t always fair and for a time, Asher was on the hook for the loss despite his strong outing. The Orioles hitters were also stymied by a soft-tossing righty, that being Marco Estrada, who never even hit 90 miles per hour with any of his 109 pitches in the game. They had a few chances - eight at-bats with runners in scoring position, in fact and blew them all.
The lone run charged to Asher didn’t even score when he was in the game. Asher left with one out in the seventh with two men on base. Jose Bautista had reached base on a brushed-the-baggy-jersey hit by pitch and Troy Tulowitzki served a down-and-away pitch into center.
That was enough for Showalter to bring in Donnie Hart with a pair of lefties due up. A good strategy! It did not quite work out... and it wasn’t really Hart’s fault either.
Annoying ways to lose
Justin Smoak gave a ride to a ball to the right-center field gap that Adam Jones was able to track down, though off the bat it didn’t look likely. Bautista and Tulowitzki both ran the bases like boneheads and the O’s had a play at doubling Bautista off second base. However, when Jones hit relay man Jonathan Schoop, Schoop was looking to first base rather than second.
The Jays chose to pinch hit righty Darwin Barney instead of let lefty and Marylander Chris Coghlan face Hart. Barney had Hart’s number, getting the kind of single to center that, with two outs, seemed like it should have easily scored Bautista from second base.
As it turned out, the ball was hit so hard and reached Jones so fast that he had a play at the plate. Jones fired a one-hop strike in towards Welington Castillo. The ball was there ahead of Bautista. Unfortunately, the one hop was a funny hop off the turf, pellets flying, and Castillo just couldn’t get his glove on the throw.
Bautista scored the game’s first run on the play. Until Gentry’s unlikely ninth inning run, it seemed like it would be the game’s only run. The run was charged to Asher, though Gentry did at least get him off the hook for the loss.
An abrupt ending
The exciting and unexpected rally did not lead to good feelings for long. It only took one pitch in the bottom of the ninth before the game ended.
Wilson had not been in the game for long. He was summoned to get the last out of the eighth inning after Hart ran into a little trouble with two outs. Wilson stayed in to start the ninth, although Brach was warming as the Orioles tied the game in the eighth.
Following the game, Showalter said that of the trio of Brach, Darren O’Day, and Zach Britton, the only one he would have used in today’s game was Brach, to close. After six months, it does not seem that Showalter has learned any lesson about when to use the closer in a tie game on the road.
Wilson threw a horrible pitch and Morales, currently the only non-horrible Jays hitter, did not miss. Game over, man. Game over. Osuna got the win after blowing the save. Wilson takes the loss. Brach did not get to close, or pitch at all.
Eventually, presumably, Manny Machado and Mark Trumbo will start batting above the Mendoza line. They’re not there yet. When your 3-4-5 hitters combine to go 1-10, you’re probably not going to win many baseball games.
The Orioles have already guaranteed a split in the four-game series, with a chance to win it on Sunday afternoon in the finale. Dylan Bundy pitches in the 1:07 game for the Orioles, with lefty J.A. Happ on the mound for the Jays.