The Orioles lost another game to the Astros on Saturday night, a 5-2 defeat that marked their sixth consecutive loss. There was no silver lining or consolation to the loss. The Orioles simply lost to a first place team because they aren’t playing like a first place team and probably aren’t one. A good team beat them. It’s not the last time this will happen.
Even before the game, the matchup did not favor the Orioles. It’s not exactly a surprise that they lost a game where 2015 AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel was pitching against Wade Miley. There’s no question who is better at pitching between those two lefties. Of course they lost - that’s what makes it worse that they weren’t able to score any runs on Friday against Joe Musgrove.
It was one of those games where you could see what kind of party it was going to be from the very first inning. The O’s top of the lineup, led for the game by Joey Rickard and his .281 on-base percentage, went down in order against Keuchel. Three batters into the bottom of the first, on the other hand, the Astros had a 2-0 lead and Miley had yet to record an out.
This was an avoidable set of events. Avoidable, anyway, if Miley had pitched better and if Rickard, substituting for a day-to-day Adam Jones, was capable of playing an MLB-caliber center field. Increasingly-mounting available evidence suggests that he is not. There was more for the pile in Saturday’s loss. Jones, if you were wondering, has a sore ankle and hip that seem to have been ailing him since he crashed into the fence last week.
After George Springer led off with a single, Jose Altuve hit a ball to the deep part of center field, where fortunately Tal’s Hill is no longer present in Houston. Everything about this looked to be a routine deep fly ball, except for Rickard’s circuitous route taken in a failed attempt to catch the ball. A good center fielder catches the ball. That’s all there is to it.
Instead, the ball fell in and Springer motored all the way around from first to score on the play. On the back end of the play, the O’s had a chance to get Springer at the plate. The relay throw beat him home, but catcher Caleb Joseph just wasn’t able to get the tag down in time. An infield single by Carlos Correa later and the Orioles were down, 2-0. They would never lead in the game.
The Orioles may have been lucky to get a run at all. Keuchel was dealing. In four of the six innings he pitched, he faced just three batters. Another saw him give up just a walk. Keuchel has been dominant in 2017. He was dominant tonight. The O’s were lucky that he had to come out after six innings with only 86 pitches thrown because it was his first start back from the disabled list. They could not rally from the deficit.
The O’s peeled back a run in the third with a two out rally that began with a Caleb Joseph walk. Rickard poked a single to right field to keep things going. The night’s designated hitter, Welington Castillo, roped a hanging breaking ball to left field to drive in Joseph. Rickard somehow didn’t make it to third base on an errant throw home, but this didn’t end up mattering.
Say this for Miley: He made sure that the Orioles wouldn’t lose an eighth consecutive one-run game on Saturday. With a man on base in the fourth inning, Miley faced strong human being George Springer, who simply deleted a baseball from existence and created a new one way, way up above center field. The two-run homer put the O’s in a 4-1 hole. They never seriously threatened again.
Miley had to leave the game after five innings, having thrown a hundred pitches already. Typical Orioles stuff. That meant it was Tyler Wilson time. The hope was probably that Wilson could soak up multiple innings in a lost cause. The reality was not so pretty.
After a scoreless sixth inning, the Orioles picked up another run. Houston summoned lefty Tony Sipp to face slumping Chris Davis, and Davis connected with the ball for once, crushing one to the fence in right-center that took a funny hop away from the Astros outfielders, allowing Davis to get a triple on the play.
The LOOGY having failed in his assigned task, Houston changed pitchers again. New Houston reliever James Hoyt got three outs, but not before a wild pitch allowed Davis to score the second O’s run.
Having pulled a little closer, Wilson ran into trouble in the seventh. Altuve led off with a single and stole second base. Correa singled sharply to center field, hard enough that Altuve wouldn’t have been able to score... if not for Rickard muffing the attempt to get a glove on the ball as it rolled past him. The error allowed Altuve to score the fifth Houston run.
Evan Gattis chased Wilson from the game with a double. Richard Bleier was summoned to get out of the jam. Bleier did so successfully, thanks in part to one run being cut down at the plate. Darren O’Day added a scoreless eighth to keep the game from being a laugher. That was the only good thing to say. It wasn’t a laugher.
No easier task awaits the Orioles on Sunday afternoon in a 2:10 game. Lance McCullers, the scheduled Houston starter, is good, too. At least it won’t be Ubaldo Jimenez starting the game. Alec Asher gets another shot to see what he can do for the Orioles.
The O’s lost six games in late May of 2012 and they turned that season around. But they haven’t had a losing streak hit seven games or longer since 2011. Not as much fun as earlier in the year when they were being compared to the 1966 and 1970 Orioles.