Eventually, we will all accept the truth about the Orioles that they have spent three months showing us: That they just aren't all that good, maybe not even good enough to swipe a wild card spot out of a group of weak contenders. Until we accept that truth, losses like Tuesday's 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Mariners will feel so much more disappointing than they maybe should be.
In a lot of ways, Tuesday's game is one that the Orioles had no business losing. They ran up against Mariners starter Andrew Albers, a 31-year-old journeyman lefty making not only his first start at the MLB level this season but his first start for the Seattle organization this year. That's exactly the kind of guy the Orioles should always beat, and often the kind of guy who beats them.
What's more, Tuesday gave the Orioles a golden opportunity to improve their wild card standing. They opened the day two games out of a wild card spot with three teams to pass. Two of those teams, the Angels and Twins, lost games on Tuesday. They could have gotten themselves to .500 and within 1.5 games of the postseason, if only they beat Albers and the Mariners. They slip instead to 2.5 back, with five teams to pass.
The Orioles blew that prime chance. It was one of those games where they had a flurry of early hits, including the third inning where, already leading 1-0, they set up a first and third situation with no one out. Manny Machado doubled to lead off the inning and advanced on a wild pitch. Albers eventually walked Jonathan Schoop to bring up the cleanup hitter, Adam Jones.
That's time to make some hay and punish an underwhelming pitcher, right? Surely. And then it's also the kind of time where Jones hit a ball that looked to be heading towards the right-center gap.
In center field for the Mariners was past Orioles foil Jarrod Dyson. The ex-Royal glided towards the ball for a nice running catch. As it was a deep-ish fly ball, Machado tagged and attempted to score. Dyson fired a strike to catcher Mike Zunino, who put the tag on Machado a split second before Machado could touch home plate.
Could Machado have run faster here? Perhaps he didn't think it was going to be a close play. I don't know. Only he knows that. Maybe Dyson just made a great play. He is good out there, as O's fans unfortunately know. Whatever the case, first and third with no one out was suddenly just a man on first with two out, and after Trey Mancini grounded out, the inning was over with nothing to show for it.
Hey, it's OK, right? That was only the third inning. Plenty of chances to get more runs on the board for the O's. (buzzer sounds) Wrong! They didn't get another baserunner in the game after that Schoop third inning walk. The run they got on a first inning Schoop home run - his 26th dinger of the season - was the only one they would get.
With Wade Miley pitching for the O's, it's hard to imagine a scenario where one run holds up for the win. I trust you will not be surprised to learn that it didn't work in this instance, either.
It wasn't an out-and-out clunker of a game from Miley, either. The Mariners just piled up a bunch of little stuff and eventually turned those into a few runs. That's going to happen when you've got the highest WHIP in MLB. No one gives up more baserunners than Miley. So yeah, of course they will score.
A fourth inning leadoff double by Guillermo Heredia eventually led to former Oriole Nelson Cruz tying the game with an RBI single. That was Cruz's 96th RBI of the season. He leads the American League.
The next inning saw the bottom of the Mariners lineup get something started against Miley. The .164-hitting Danny Espinosa led off with a double. The Mariners then tasked the #9 hitter, Dyson, with putting down a sacrifice bunt. Dyson bunted back to the pitcher and the Orioles still didn't get any outs on the play.
Given their own first and third with no out situation, the Mariners didn't waste it. Leadoff man Jean Segura promptly singled to drive home Espinosa and give the Mariners the lead. This proved to be the game-winning run.
Another couple of fielder's choice plays moved up runners and gave Seattle their third run. The second of these was a would-be double play ball hit by Robinson Cano. However, the runner heading into second base, Heredia, slid hard into shortstop Tim Beckham, upending him before he could make a relay throw.
Through these orange-tinted lenses, it looked like a play where the O's would have had a good argument about an illegal slide. Heredia touched the base but did not remain on it. There was no challenge, though, and the third Mariners run crossed the plate. After Miley walked Cruz, manager Buck Showalter had seen enough and he was bounced from the game before finishing the fifth inning.
Miley's line for the night: 4.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO. Ouch. He threw 95 pitches while failing to complete the fifth. Double ouch. His MLB-highest WHIP has not happened by accident. He preserved his lead on Tuesday night.
Following Miley, Darren O'Day escaped the fifth and pitched a scoreless sixth. O'Day hit a batter but didn't allow any other runners, and he struck out three. Mychal Givens added a scoreless seventh, while Brad Brach pitched a scoreless eighth to keep the O's in the game, even if it didn't matter because they didn't get any hits after Machado's third inning double or even a runner after Schoop's third inning walk.
A Wednesday afternoon contest awaits before the Orioles west coast road trip comes to an end. They can still fly back east with a 5-5 record on the trip if they only beat the Mariners in this series finale. Ubaldo Jimenez starts the 3:40 game for the O's, with Marco Gonzalez starting for the Mariners.