The Orioles appeared primed to take down the Tigers on this Friday night in an excellent pitcher’s duel at Oriole Park. However, as this season has taught us, games can end in uniquely disappointing situations. This game, to say the least, fell into the disappointing category.
Below, the details from one that got away.
Detroit pushed the first run of the game across the plate in the first inning, getting to Orioles starter Kevin Gausman with multiple plus early at-bats. With one out, Jim Aducci took a fastball over the heart of the plate to left field and punched it just far enough to get over the wall. It was just his 72nd plate appearance of the year, a good one that gave the Tigers an early 1-0 lead.
Gausman would escape the inning without further damage following a Justin Upton double, but it ultimately took 29 pitches.
The Aducci blast gave Justin Verlander and the Tigers an early lead, one that stood for about 20 minutes until Tim Beckham (MVP of the week) headed to the dish for his first plate appearance in the second inning. Considering he’s become to the Orioles what Mike Trout is to the Angels (perhaps an exaggeration), it shouldn’t be a surprise that he went yard.
Leading off the inning, Beckham took a hanging breaking pitch to right-center, splitting the outfielders and sounding the home run siren to tie the game. It’s been less than a week, but Beckham for Tobias Myers isn’t looking like such a terrible deal. Verlander cleanly worked around the 6-7-8 portion of the lineup, but not before the game was made new with a 1-1 score.
Fun fact: Beckham’s home run was the 9,996th in Orioles history. That’s great news — but even better news? It didn’t take long for number 9,997 to be hit, this time by a guy who has been on the roster for quite a while.
In the bottom of the third, Manny Machado crushed a fastball up in the zone, giving it a ride for a solo shot. His 19th long ball of the season gave the Birds a 2-1 lead heading into the fourth and inched the all-time HR count that much closer to 10,000. Also, as Mark Viviano of WJZ noted, the round-tripper was just another reason to take a look at how good Machado has been since the start of July:
The "new" Manny Machado has been a key mid-season @Orioles pick-up: .336 avg, 4 HR, 17 RBI in 30 gms since July 1 (incl today thru 3 inn)— Mark Viviano (@MarkWJZ) August 5, 2017
Over the course of the next several innings, both starters were fantastic. Verlander and Gausman traded zeroes through the seventh inning, posting a pair of admirable starts that had the pace of this game rolling smoothly.
For Gausman, it was a night in which almost everything was working. He had the upper 90s fastball and off-speed pitches to pair, cruising through seven innings. He allowed just three total hits, striking out eight and walking just one. With three straight encouraging starts, it appears the season might just be turning in the right direction for the left-hander.
The bottom of the seventh inning is when this game took a turn — a particularly tough one for the home team.
With one out following a single by Beckham and a double by Seth Smith, Caleb Joseph had the best opportunity of the ball game with two in scoring position. And when he was hit by a pitch that rode up and in, it seemed to be an ideal bases-loaded situation that’d at-least see one at-bat by the top of the order.
Joseph was hit by the pitch and appeared to be headed to first base — that is, until first base umpire Jeff Nelson ruled that Joseph had actually swung at the pitch. Admittedly, the pitch was in on the hands and Joseph’s reaction to being hit did technically cause his bat to “swing” around. It wasn’t a baseball swing, Nelson stood by the by-the-book definition.
Buck Showalter exited the dugout to share his thoughts, but Joseph headed back to the dugout, Craig Gentry flied out to center field and no insurance runs were collected. Just like that, an opportunity crushed. And an inning later, that proved to be incredibly costly.
Mychal Givens entered in the top of the eighth with Gausman at 111 pitches, and as the final score indicates, it didn’t go well. Two singles and a walk loaded the bases with one out for Justin Upton, who needed just one pitch to give Oriole Park a completely different feel on this Friday night.
Givens tossed a fastball that caught all of the plate and Upton didn’t miss it, launching a grand slam that was gone as soon as it made contact with the bat. All Gentry had to do was watch the game-changing hit fly over his head and give Detroit the 5-2 lead.
From there, all it took was the Tigers bullpen to collect six final outs and capture a win to drop the Orioles season record to 53-56.
The good news to take from this game is simple — Kevin Gausman was brilliant yet again and Tim Beckham was 4-4 and looks to be an integral part of this O’s lineup moving forward.
Otherwise? A heartbreaking game to kick off the weekend in Birdland.
Tomorrow’s game is set for 7:05 with Wade Miley taking the hill for the Orioles.