The Orioles annual west coast road trip came to an end in disappointing fashion on Wednesday afternoon. Like many other games this season, the O's generated some scoring chances, got a few runs, and then their disaster of a starting rotation just couldn't do anything at all good or even OK. A wild ninth inning gave them a chance, but the deficit given by the pitching staff was just too much to overcome.
With this 7-6 loss to the Mariners, the Orioles dropped the finale and the series to Seattle. The loss means that the O's will head back to Baltimore having racked up a 4-6 record on this swing through the west. They have lost a game to the Angels and are now three games back of the second wild card spot, and also lost ground to the Royals. The Twins and Rays will be playing later on Wednesday.
The loss was not without some late drama. After Mariners closer Edwin Diaz ended up walking the first three batters he saw in the top of the ninth inning, the Orioles actually had the tying run on base and the go-ahead run at the plate in the form of #2 hitter Manny Machado with no one out. That is about as good of a chance as you can get.
Machado watched another two balls out of the zone before hitting a line drive that looked to be headed to the right-center gap. The pesky Jarrod Dyson, in center for Seattle, pulled up to play a hop. Two runs could have scored - except Mariners right fielder Leonys Martin came in almost out of nowhere to make the catch. Caleb Joseph, the lead runner, tagged and scored on the play. It could have been so much better.
Diaz threw enough strikes to retire Jonathan Schoop on a strikeout for the second out of the inning before his command fled him again. He hit Trey Mancini to load up the bases and then promptly hit Mark Trumbo to force in a run.
Finally, the Mariners had seen enough. After 37 brutal pitches, Diaz was out. They summoned the lefty, Marc Rzepczynski, with Chris Davis due up. After all that drama, it was anticlimactic. Davis struck out on three pitches, two swinging and the third looking. The third strike was almost exactly at the dead center of the zone. Davis did not even move his bat.
The Orioles could have possibly thought about pinch hitting Adam Jones or even Welington Castillo instead of letting Davis face the lefty who holds lefties to a .600 OPS this season. Jones was getting the day off but before the game he was said to be available as a pinch hitter. Tough to pinch hit out the $161 million man, but sometimes it's what must be done. It wasn't done and the Orioles lost.
If you want, you can certainly assign some blame to Schoop and Davis for not coming through in the ninth, but in the aggregate it's hard to blame the O's offense. They picked up 12 hits in the game, with every starter in the lineup getting at least one hit. Collectively, they scored six runs. You should win when you score six runs! And often, you will, except when Bad Ubaldo Jimenez shows up.
The rotation has been dragging the Orioles down all season. Here we are in mid-August and the same is still happening. Jimenez was given an early 1-0 lead when Tim Beckham led off the game with his fifth Orioles home run. The Mariners tied the game in the third inning and took the lead in the fourth when Yonder "Manny's brother-in-law" Alonso put the Mariners up with a two-run homer.
Still the O's battled back, with a three-run fifth inning that saw the 7-8-9 hitters all get on base and score runs for the O's. This was part of a sequence where they picked up five straight hits and took a 4-3 lead. That chased Mariners starter Marco Gonzales. Reliever Tony Zych came in and kept the O's from scoring more runs with a pair of fielder's choice grounders.
Jimenez set to surrendering the slim lead immediately in the bottom half of the inning, allowing a single, a hit batter, and another single. The Mariners had tied the game before Jimenez recorded an out in the inning. With one out, Jimenez gave up two more run-scoring singles and the O's trailed, 6-4. This was enough for Buck Showalter.
For the day, Jimenez allowed six runs on eight hits and a walk in 4.1 innings pitched. He also hit two batters. That he has flashes of brilliance cannot be denied, but when he's bad, he's just so, so bad.
The Orioles probably need to win something like 60% of their remaining games if they're going to have any hope of a postseason spot. If all holds, Jimenez will start 20% of their remaining games. This is not favorable math.
The Mariners scored the seventh and ultimately decisive run of the game in the sixth inning. Richard Bleier surrendered a home run to Martin, who just so happens to be a .173 hitter. That was only Martin's third home run of the season. Not great, but with all of the other stuff in this game I just can't bring myself to be too mad at Bleier.
So goes another frustrating loss. If the Orioles hadn't had horrible starting pitching, they really would have had a chance... and even though they did have horrible starting pitching they still did have a decent chance but just couldn't get that one last clutch hit.
There are just 41 games left to play. The Orioles are running out of losses that they can give away.
The O's get a needed off day at home in Baltimore on Thursday. They will not be done playing AL West teams, though, because waiting for them on Friday will be the second wild card-leading Angels. Jeremy Hellickson and Andrew Heaney are scheduled to be in action for the 7:05 game.