With both the Royals and the Rays losing games on Tuesday night, the Orioles came into their game against the Angels with a prime chance to gain a game on the wild card teams ahead of them. All that they would have to do is take down their former farmhand, Parker Bridwell, casually cast aside by the team back in April.
The revenge narrative writes itself, doesn't it? The Orioles decided they had no use for Bridwell. He joined another organization and has ripped off a solid streak of starts. That continued on Tuesday night, and thanks to a seven inning, one run effort by Bridwell, the Angels knocked off the Orioles, 3-2. The loss sends the Orioles back below .500. It was fun while it lasted.
Orioles fans who did not stay up to watch this late game will be happier about it. A loss you didn't see is just a loss. In the moment, the game was entirely winnable, with the Orioles offense blowing several prime scoring opportunities due to either bad baserunning, bad situational hitting, or both.
For much of the game, Bridwell and Orioles starter Jeremy Hellickson were turning in one of the more unlikely pitchers duels out there. Neither team got much in the way of scoring opportunities against the other.
The Angels struck in the second inning. Andrelton Simmons singled with one out and promptly stole second base to get himself in scoring position. Simmons scored on a two-out single hit by C.J. Cron, the Angels .661 OPSing first baseman. Probably not the guy you want to beat you, but that's life. The Angels held the early 1-0 lead.
It took until the fifth inning for the O's to build a real scoring chance against Bridwell. Once they did, they jumped on him quickly. Tim Beckham led off with a single. He quickly reached third base on a double hit by Seth Smith. Second and third with no one out? Yes, please.
Catcher Caleb Joseph added a third consecutive base hit, driving in Beckham with a game-tying single. This still left the Orioles with the go-ahead run on third base and nobody out, also a fantastic opportunity.
Or so it seemed. The O's #9 hitter, Joey Rickard, hit a slow-developing grounder that went right to Angels third baseman Luis Valbuena. Despite this, Smith broke for home, where he was out by a mile. It is a mystery what he might have been thinking.
Still, the O's had a chance to make something of it, with men on first and second and one out, if only the top of the lineup could make something happen. Unfortunately for the O's, Adam Jones struck out swinging.
With two outs, Manny Machado hit a rocket to left field. It sounded good off the bat, but Angels left fielder Cameron Maybin made a diving play to catch the liner and save two runs. The MASN broadcast announced the hit probability of this ball as being something like 77%. Sometimes, BABIP just isn't in your favor. The O's would have to settle for tying it up.
The seventh inning brought the O's another blown chance. Smith singled with one out and got up to second base on a wild pitch. Maybe they could get something cooking? Well, no. Joseph hit a ground ball to shortstop, the kind of play where it's an absolute no-brainer that the runner stays put at second base, with the play in front of him. Smith instead ran and got thrown out at third base. Just, why?
There was only one way things could go in the bottom of the inning after the second baserunning blunder. Hellickson got ambushed by the Angels for four straight hits to start off the bottom of the seventh. His pitch count was not high. In the midst of a ten games in ten days stretch, manager Buck Showalter tried to push the inning out of his starter. This failed.
The mortal wounds were dealt by sub-.200 hitter Valbuena, whose double drove in one run, and the aforementioned poor-hitting first baseman, Cron, who singled to drive in the third Angels run. These are not the two dudes you want to be beating you. That, too, is life. After all, even the .200 hitter succeeds 20% of the time.
This was finally enough for Hellickson. He left Darren O'Day with an unenviable situation. O'Day showed some of his past form in pulling off the escape without allowing any of the inherited runners to score, preserving some hope for the O's late into the game. It did not become a laugher.
Bridwell came out of the game after the seventh inning. He needed just 85 pitches to get through seven innings, and he held the Orioles to one run on six hits. Bridwell did not walk a batter and struck out four. The question of why Bridwell was able to turn over a new leaf immediately after the Orioles gave up on him is one that I hope occupies minds in the Orioles front office.
The score staying close mattered, because in the ninth inning, with two down, Joseph hit a ball that did just enough to clear the left field fence and a leaping Maybin. The solo shot, Joseph's seventh homer of the season, brought the O's within a run, but Rickard popped out to end the game.
It's not much of a consolation prize that the Orioles out-hit the Angels, 8-6. It doesn't really matter that Hellickson struck out nine batters over six innings, holding the Angels to just six hits and a walk in six-plus innings. It matters even less that through six, Hellickson had given up only two hits.
It's true that in baseball, sometimes you lose. Even the MLB-best Dodgers, who have won more than 70% of their games, have lost 33 times. However, the Orioles have put themselves in a place where they can't take many more of these "Eh, sometimes you just lose" games. They need a sustained hot streak before they can shrug off any loss again.
The Orioles can still get out of Anaheim with a series win if they're able to close out with a victory in Wednesday afternoon's 3:37 finale. Kevin Gausman starts for the Orioles, with Troy Scribner pitching for the Angels. Scribner will not have the revenge narrative working for him, so here's hoping the Orioles hitters do much better. Short of a no-hitter, it's hard to do worse.