The Orioles don’t have to play in Kansas City any more this year, unless something strange happens and they play there in the playoffs. That’s good news because something about the place makes them play horrible baseball. They lost the third of a three-game set on Sunday afternoon, falling 9-8.
Although the Orioles ended the game with the tying run on third base and the go-ahead run in scoring position and just one out, don’t make the mistake of thinking that they deserved to win the game. I mean, they did, in the sense that if you score eight runs, you should win, but the other thing is that they deserved to lose.
There was a brief time where it looked like, in fact, the Orioles were the better team than the Royals, as their place in the standings might indicate. Hard as it is to believe, the Orioles were leading this game 5-0 at one point and they chased Royals starter Chris Young before he could finish the fourth inning.
It was Chris Davis who opened up the scoring, launching his sixth home run of the season to put the Orioles up 1-0. This led off the second inning. As it turned out, it was Davis who started the rally in the fourth inning as well, drawing a leadoff walk against Young. Mark Trumbo added a single, though neither Hyun Soo Kim nor Joey Rickard was able to do anything helpful with this scoring chance.
The bottom of the lineup, on the other hand, came through in a big way. In a flash, Ryan Flaherty doubled to drive in both Davis and Trumbo before Caleb Joseph hit his second home run of the season to get the lead to 5-0. Joseph and Francisco Pena have gone crazy in this series and the Orioles weren’t able to do a darn thing about it.
A lot of Orioles failed in a lot of different ways to get to a 9-8 loss, but it’s hard to blame anybody more than starting pitcher Kevin Gausman. Like his teammate Chris Tillman a day before, Gausman labored through some innings where he just couldn’t put batters away.
Worse for Gausman, right after the Orioles staked him to that 5-0 lead in the fourth inning, he suddenly was unable to get the Royals out. Why, with a five run lead, did Gausman proceed to issue a leadoff walk to Brandon Moss and then give up base hits to five of the next six Royals batters, including the capstone failure of surrendering a three-run game-tying home run to Mike Moustakas?
This is the great mystery. Giving up nine hits in just 3.1 innings really takes some work. Gausman was up for that challenge. I don’t even know what else to say about the guy at this point. It’s a bit harsh to say that he’s failing in a Brian Matusz-like fashion, in the sense that he has had multiple solid seasons as a starter at the big league level, but it is the case that on this day, he failed the Brian Matusz Test.
The Matusz Test, named after his disastrous 2011 season, is a metric applied to a pitcher with a high ERA. Gausman entered the game with an unsightly 6.63 ERA. Like Matusz in 2011, it’s increasingly hard to keep being worse than an already-high ERA.
Gausman took the full Tommy Hunter of five runs, all earned, in just those 3.1 innings, raising his ERA to 7.19. When your Opening Day starter has a 7.19 ERA on Mother’s Day, you have got some problems that need to be solved.
For crying out loud, Richard Bleier had to come in and pitch in the fourth inning. You might not have even realized Bleier was presently with the team. He was called up for today. That’s good in that they ended up needing him, not so good in that he gave up three runs in two innings.
Though Bleier takes the loss in the scorebook, his defense failed him as much as his pitching failed the Orioles. After Alex Gordon led off the inning by leaning into a pitch and getting to first base, the pesky Drew Butera singled to put two men on.
Sub-.200-hitting Royals leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar then laid down a poor bunt to attempt to advance the runners. Manny Machado charged in from third base, fielded the ball, and threw to second base, perhaps hoping to start a double play.
That’s a good idea when a fielder is standing at second base. However, no one was home and the ball went into center field for a throwing error. Gordon scored, Butera went to third, and Escobar went to second, which meant that the next ground ball, hit by Moustakas, scored a run and had no chance of being an inning-ending double play.
On the play with the error, Machado had Flaherty standing at third base, ready to get the lead runner. When Gold Glove fielders make mistakes at key moments, it’s also hard to win a game.
Bleier later gave up his third run when Jorge Soler led off the sixth inning by crushing a mammoth 464-foot home run. Not much to say about that except sometimes really strong players can feast on fringe pitchers. They trailed, 8-5, heading into the seventh.
In the top of the seventh, the O’s clawed back two of the runs. Davis drove in another run after Jonathan Schoop and Machado both reached base to start the inning. With one out, pinch hitter Trey Mancini loaded the bases with a single. Rickard turned the rally into a less-promising one with an RBI fielder’s choice. The O’s would have to wait until another inning to score.
Before they could score again, Mychal Givens, working in his second inning, gave up a solo home run to Butera. That would be the same Butera who entered today with a .551 career MLB OPS in over a thousand plate appearances. Don’t give up a home run to this guy.
The run proved to be crucial. The Orioles could plate one run in the ninth, but not two. The bottom of the lineup, Rickard, Flaherty, and Joseph, strung together three straight one-out hits but the top of the lineup could do nothing with that promising chance.
We all will have a needed day off from watching Orioles baseball on Monday. They head next to Detroit to start a series on Tuesday, where they will turn to Ubaldo Jimenez to try to halt this four-game losing streak.