The second half of the season for the Orioles began with a game like so many from the first half. Truly abysmal starting pitching torpedoed their hopes of having a chance of winning the game from the get-go. As it turned out, the Orioles chipped away until they finally tied the game, just in time for Brad Brach to put them back in the hole. They lost to the Cubs, 9-8.
We can get ticked off all we want about Brach serving up the game-losing home run to Cubs #9 hitter Addison Russell. That was brutal. What was even more brutal, though, was starting pitcher Kevin Gausman, who continued his race up to a 2.000 WHIP by getting tattooed by the Cubs.
The Orioles faced a 4-0 deficit before they ever even got a chance to bat. After two Cubs got on base, their catcher, Willson Contreras, blasted a pitch into the Cubs bullpen to put the O’s in a 3-0 hole. Just to make sure there was no question that it wasn’t a fluke, Gausman proceeded to serve up another home run to the very next batter. Kyle Schwarber, serving as the DH in the game, went back-to-back, also into the Cubs bullpen.
Things did not get any better from there for Gausman, as he also gave up a two-run home run to Ben Zobrist in the second inning, then yet another two-run home run in the third inning to Jason Heyward. Giving up four home runs in three innings is a feat that seems like it would be hard to do even if you were trying. And yet, here is Gausman in 2017.
With remarkable efficiency, they scored against Gausman. He lasted just three innings of the game; although he’d thrown only 69 pitches, manager Buck Showalter had seen quite enough, and understandably so. In that time, Gausman allowed eight runs, all earned, tying his career high, on seven hits and one walk. Every batter to reach base scored! The four home runs were a new career-worst for Gausman.
Whatever has been wrong with Gausman this season, the All-Star break sure wasn’t sufficient to clear them up.
There have been games this year where the O’s went down early and it almost felt like the offense folded up the tents. This was not one of those games. From 8-0 down, they battled back against Cubs starter Mike Montgomery.
It was Welington Castillo who got the Orioles on board, launching a solo home run in the third inning to put the O’s on the board. The fourth inning saw Chris Davis drive in another run with a double. At that point it was just 8-2. The Cubs probably weren’t worried yet.
A fifth inning rally brought the O’s much closer. The O’s plated four runs, chasing Montgomery, and they kept scoring against reliever Justin Grimm. With two men on base, Mark Trumbo had a run-scoring single, followed right after by Trey Mancini driving in another run.
Just like that, the O’s were at least within grand slam range with plenty of time left to go in the game. Joey Rickard came through with a clutch hit to pull them even closer, driving in two runs to leave the O’s down by just an 8-6 margin.
After Gausman’s disaster, the Orioles bullpen held the line while they rallied from the deficit. There’s not a game about which you’ll want to read the phrase, “Richard Bleier was pitching in the fourth inning.” That’s what happened, though. Bleier turned in 2.1 scoreless innings.
Darren O’Day followed Bleier, with Mychal Givens pitching an inning after that and Zach Britton pitching an inning after that. All of these relievers kept the Cubs from scoring any more runs. The O’s, somehow, were still in the game.
Out of the Cubs bullpen, it was a parade of former Orioles. Pedro Strop and Brian Duensing kept the O’s off the board. In the eighth inning, though, came Koji Uehara. Want to feel old? It’s been six years since he was an Oriole.
Uehara, however, was not able to keep the O’s off the board. After Jonathan Schoop singled to bring the tying run to the plate, Mark Trumbo went jumbo, as he is wont to do, crushing a home run 435 feet into the left field seats. Improbably, the Orioles stormed back from eight runs down, rallying for eight unanswered runs to tie the game up. The O’s had a new lease on life.
That new lease did not last for very long, alas. Brach got one out in the ninth inning and then Russell took him deep to put the Orioles back down in a hole. Russell’s home run was his eighth of the season.
This was the final, deflating thing for the Orioles. The bottom of their lineup went down 1-2-3 in the ninth inning against Cubs closer Wade Davis, who has been brilliant for them this season. When things reach a point where a decision is made that pinch hitting Johnny Giavotella as potentially the last batter of the game is the right choice, things have gone awry somewhere along the way.
So, Gausman still stinks. That remains a problem. If you want to try to look on the bright side, Manny Machado was 2-4 in the game and also drew a walk. He now has a hit in seven straight games and has increased his batting average by 19 points in that time. That’s something, right?
The O’s can’t be settling for consolation prizes for much longer, though. They entered the second half of the season with probably just 29 losses to give, at most. Gausman quickly ensured that they would use up one of them on Friday night.
To the grown man who brought his baseball glove to the stadium tonight and reached over the fence to snatch an in-play Machado ball out of the air, costing the Orioles a run in a game in which they ended up losing by a run: Boooooo!
This play turned a double into a ground rule double that halted the runner at third base when he would have easily scored. Friends, don’t let your friends be this guy. People, don’t be this guy.
Prepare for a dose of pain tomorrow night when former Oriole Jake Arrieta pitches for the Cubs against the O’s. Prepare for further pain when Wade Miley starts the 7:05 game for the Orioles.