The Orioles traveled to Houston to kick off a three-game weekend series against the Astros on Friday. Kevin Gausman took the mound and pitched a gem, but the offense was nowhere to be found on this night in Texas.
For Gausman and Houston starter Joe Musgrove, the game couldn’t have started any better. The only runner Orioles runner that reached scoring position in the first three innings was Jonathan Schoop, who doubled with one out in the top of the third but was stranded with two strikeouts from J.J. Hardy and Seth Smith.
Musgrove entered the game with a 1.55 WHIP and a 5.83 ERA in 46.1 innings entering the game, but he looked plenty up to the task on this night.
The game’s scoring kicked off in the bottom of the third, where Kevin Gausman was rolling but paid mightily for leaving an 0-2 slider right down the heart of the plate. With one out, Jake Marisnick crushed a ball to the train tracks in left field that would’ve been long gone in any park in Major League Baseball. It was a no-doubter that put the Astros up 1-0 early.
The Orioles again put a runner on second with just one out in the fourth, but strikeouts from Musgrove proved costly yet again.
Manny Machado laced a double down the left-field line, giving the heart of the lineup — Chris Davis and Mark Trumbo — an opportunity to tie the game and provide Gausman a bit of support. Ultimately however, the boom or bust nature of the Orioles roster structure struck in a big moment yet again.
Davis went down looking, Trumbo popped a lazy fly to left and for the second straight inning, the offense failed to cash in with a runner in scoring position. Through four innings, Musgrove had fanned five and allowed just the two doubles.
As Gausman continued to mow down the Astros lineup and have a very impressive outing against arguably Major League Baseball’s best team, the Orioles strangely crushed a potentially game-tying rally in the top of the sixth inning.
After J.J. Hardy rolled a weak ground ball to single to start off the inning, Smith worked a 3-2 count in the next at-bat. It looked to be where the wheels might fall off on Musgrove — instead, he turned out to need just two more pitches to end the threat.
Smith swung and missed at ball four, leaving J.J. Hardy, not exactly the Orioles version of Billy Hamilton, hung out to dry as he ran toward second base. He was easily tagged out for a strike-em-out, throw-em-out, a play followed by a weak Adam Jones grounder to end the inning. It was far from an ideal sequence events, especially considering what would happen in the bottom of the inning.
Gausman retired two in a row to start the bottom of the sixth, but again, all it took was one mistake pitch to do significant damage in this low-scoring battle. The O’s starter left a 2-1 fastball up in the zone to Carlos Beltran, who hit a solo shot into the second deck to right field. It was just the second run surrendered through six innings, but it felt rather important considering the circumstances.
And at the end of the day, that’s probably because it was. Despite more opportunities, the Orioles’ situational hitting simply fell flat on this night.
Machado doubled to lead off the seventh, but the heart of the lineup, yet again, couldn’t drive him in and left him stranded without advancing even 90 feet.
It was one of “those nights” for the lineup, one in which Musgrove had every answer that the Birds didn’t have. His last name isn’t Kershaw, but he could’ve fooled even the most invested baseball fan on this night.
Gausman finished out a scoreless seventh with some help from a Mychal Givens strikeout, wrapping up an outing that shouldn’t be lost in the final outcome. His final line: 6.2 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 2 K.
That sent this one to the bullpens and to the top of the eighth, simply setting up more massive disappointments for the O’s lineup.
After Hyun-Soo Kim started off the eighth inning with a hard-hit double to right, a Jonathan Schoop infield single sent the go-ahead run — J.J. Hardy — to the plate with nobody out. The plan was for Hardy to lay down a sacrifice to get a pair of runners in scoring position for the top of the order, but a misplay by catcher Evan Gattis loaded the bases for the top of the order.
It was the perfect opportunity for the Orioles to grab the lead and hand the game over to the ‘pen to win it.
But this game was anything but perfect, and following the disappointing script, the top of the lineup couldn’t plate a single run.
Smith struck out for the fourth time, Jones popped out to left on a ball too shallow to score Kim and Machado hit a fly ball to right field that reached the warning track, but found George Springer’s glove to end the inning.
It really was that kind of night.
Astros closer Ken Giles made quick work of the middle of the lineup in the ninth, wrapping things up rather quickly and sending the Orioles to 25-21 on the 2017 season.
Tomorrow’s first pitch will be at 7:00 p.m. ET, broadcasted nationally on FOX.