There are a lot of ways to lose a baseball game. The Orioles have explored many over the course of the 2017 season. For all that the starting rotation is deservedly maligned, it's not why they lose all of the games they lose. So it went on Wednesday afternoon, when Ubaldo Jimenez was fine and the Orioles still lost to the Rays, 5-1.
If you look in the box score, it's Jimenez who takes the loss for the game. One Jimenez mistake turned into a two-run home run hit by Evan Longoria, which put the Orioles in a hole from which they wouldn't climb out. That's frustrating, but all in all, Jimenez was good: Just three hits and two walks in six innings, with nine strikeouts.
Any one of us would take that from Jimenez every time. If we had seen something closer to that version of Jimenez in more outings than not over the past several seasons, the Orioles would have been doing better things. But on a day where his offense only got on base seven times against Alex Cobb and the relievers who followed him, it just wasn't enough.
With the loss, the Orioles are now five games below .500. They are guaranteed to be below .500 when the trade deadline arrives. Does this mean they're sure to be sellers? Who knows? The O's are also now five games out of a wild card spot, which will shift depending on the result of the Royals-Tigers game later on Wednesday.
It was actually the Orioles who scored first in this game. Jonathan Schoop got them on the board by crushing a Cobb pitch and driving it over the fence in center field. This solo shot was Schoop's 22nd home run of the season. The O's led, 1-0, after this fourth inning homer. Too bad they didn't score again.
Jimenez really only made the one mistake to Longoria, the only real blemish on his outing on Wednesday. Unfortunately for the O's, their offense was lifeless enough that this one mistaken mattered. A one-out walk by Mallex Smith turned into Longoria's two-out homer and just like that, the Orioles were losing, 2-1. That's the way it goes. No pitcher has an ERA of 0. Sometimes they give up runs.
What plagued the Orioles the most was simply a lack of scoring chances. They only had six at-bats with a runner in scoring position over the whole game. Five of those six chances stemmed from right fielder Seth Smith hitting a pair of doubles.
Smith was the #7 batter in the game, meaning it was up to catcher Caleb Joseph or shortstop Ruben Tejada to drive him in. They could not do so. It remains tough to win a game when neither the top nor middle of your lineup are able to generate many scoring chances.
Cobb is not a slouch of a starting pitcher. Sometimes the other team has someone good pitching and he has a good game and that's that, you're going to lose. Right? But the Orioles have played themselves into a position where they can't settle for very many more of those losses, especially when you consider that if the starting rotation keeps pitching like it has, many games will just be lost for that reason. So it's a bummer.
What's also a bummer was the performance of the bullpen in this game. Neither Darren O'Day nor Zach Britton were successful in keeping the Rays from pulling farther ahead, giving the O's hope of being able to get back into the game with just one run scored.
After Jimenez came out, O'Day entered to pitch the seventh inning. He promptly gave up a home run to Stephen Souza, the first batter he saw. O'Day then walked Corey Dickerson on four pitches. This put the O's in a 3-1 hole. O'Day's season ERA is now 4.79. Typing that makes me sad.
With no save situation on the horizon and a need to either have Britton stay sharp or showcase his trade value, the O's summoned Britton for the eighth. If you look only at the box score, you might get discouraged: Britton allowed two runs on three hits, which really put the game out of reach. It was indeed discouraging.
However, four of the balls put in play were ground balls, so maybe don't get too discouraged. If Britton is getting ground balls most of the time, success will find him again. For now, though, his season ERA is 3.50. That's in just 18 innings, or less than a third of a full season's workload, but still, it's not what you want to see from a results standpoint.
In this particular outing, Britton's velocity seemed fine and so did his command. Joseph took a passed ball in the inning, which prompted MASN's Jim Palmer to remark favorably about Britton's arsenal, "That's how you know the sinker is sinking - he knows it was coming and he couldn't even catch it."
This line of thinking may not work so well on someone who doesn't already have a vested emotional interest in whether or not the Orioles and their players are good. I want to believe it, though.
The question for the next few days is whether scouts are convinced enough to tell their GMs to trade for Britton and give up the kind of value that the Orioles will be seeking to part with him. That may not happen. Or it might! A lot can happen in five days time. Stay tuned to Camden Chat for the latest.
The Orioles get an off day on Thursday before they head to Texas for a three-game series that will represent their last chance to improve their standing before the trade deadline arrives. At this point the Orioles will have to win most of their remaining series to have a chance of still being in the race at the end. Can you see that happening?
Enjoy this stretch of more than 48 hours of no Orioles. They will be back in action on Friday at 8:05, starting a series against that Rangers team they just swept for four games in Baltimore. Chris Tillman and Andrew Cashner are the scheduled starting pitchers in the series opener.