The Orioles made things interesting in the eighth and ninth innings, but it was too little, too late as they lost yet another September game. They dropped Saturday’s contest against the Rays, 4-3.
That caps a 7-20 month for the Orioles. There is still one more game to play, of course, which they may well lose, the way that they’re playing. They still can’t hit and they still can’t pitch. But hey, at least the Orioles scored some runs late to avoid back-to-back shutouts, right?
The latest hope for a late-season savior - mind you, there’s no saving the season, but at least salvaging some kind of positive feeling - was Miguel Castro, getting his first ever MLB start in the game. Castro has been bandied about as a possible rotation candidate for next season, so why not get a head start on evaluating him in the season’s penultimate game?
It didn’t go well. Nothing about the 2017 Orioles starting rotation is allowed to go well for any meaningful length of time. Mind you, it didn’t exactly go horribly either. Well, OK, it kind of did.
Castro pitched 3.1 innings and gave up six hits and a walk while in the game. All three runs he gave up were surrendered on one swing. Brad Miller tagged him for a three-run home run in the fourth inning. Miller entered the game with a .651 OPS for the year. When nearly every baseball player is notching a 20+ home run season, Miller connected for just the ninth time all season.
For much of the game, it looked like the Orioles would not score at all. They did not have much of any offense for the first seven innings. Four of their seven hits came in the eighth and ninth innings, as well as all three of their runs. It was a sad state of affairs before that, even against Rays starter Chris Archer, who had been beyond horrible in the month of September.
The Rays scored a fourth run in the seventh inning that would ultimately prove to be the decisive one. Donnie Hart allowed a leadoff single to Kevin Kiermaier. The Rays center fielder stole second base on a strikeout and ended up on third base when Hart was judged to have committed a balk. With less than two out, a deep fly ball by Wilson Ramos was plenty to score Kiermaier. This gave Tampa Bay a 4-0 lead.
The O’s offense finally woke up in the top of the eighth inning. Jonathan Schoop led off the inning with a single. A Trey Mancini walk put two men on base with none out. The runners advanced on a groundout and were eventually able to score when Pedro Alvarez hit a single to drive in both.
In the ninth, the O’s even ended up with the tying run on base with no one out. J.J. Hardy’s second double of the game got the inning starter. Chance Sisco singled, moving Hardy up to third base. However, they got no further hits. Pinch hitter Seth Smith struck out. Anthony Santander drove in the third run with a sacrifice fly. Schoop then hit a hard liner that went right to Kiermaier to end the game.
The Blue Jays also lost on Saturday, so the O’s and Jays remain tied for last place heading into the season’s final game. They will finally escape into the offseason after Sunday’s 3:10 finale. Kevin Gausman and Blake Snell are the starters to close out the year.