The season is slipping away from the Orioles. They have run into the dominant winning streak of the Indians at the wrong time. Although they didn’t get blown out of the stadium in a 4-2 loss on Saturday, the time is gone where there can be any consolation taken in losses. They have to win and they didn’t win and now the O’s have fallen back to .500.
It’s been rare enough that the Indians have even trailed during their winning streak that’s now stretched out to 17 games. The O’s actually had them for a couple of innings on Saturday afternoon, scoring in the first inning of the game.
Unfortunately, that lead didn’t last for long, and as it ended up, three of the five hits the Orioles picked up all day happened in the first inning. At one point, Indians starter Josh Tomlin retired 13 Orioles in a row. It’s hard to win a game like that. There’s no room for error.
Worse still for the Orioles, Tomlin is not the guy to have a bad game against. His ERA over 5 would fit in better in the Orioles rotation than it does in the Indians rotation. This was the game they really should have found a way to win, and instead, they lost.
If the Twins are victorious later, the O’s will be four games out of the second wild card spot with just 20 games left to play. It’s not over mathematically for the Orioles yet, and barring a disaster it won’t be for another couple of weeks, but they are at a point where, practically, unless they go 14-6 the rest of the way, it’s over.
Let’s talk about the not-so-lovely totals. The O’s scratched out three singles in the first inning. The third of these, hit by Trey Mancini, was the one that scored the run, with Mancini getting down the line as fast as he could to barely beat out the throw from shortstop. That scored Manny Machado, who had an infield single of his own earlier in the inning.
This gave the O’s an early 1-0 lead. Tomlin then went on his streak of retiring the next 13 batters, so it was up to Gabriel Ynoa, making his first MLB start of the season, to hold the line with that small lead.
Simply put, Ynoa was not up to that challenge today. He was not exactly bad, he just wasn’t better than the Indians offense that’s been one of the AL’s most prolific all season. That’s the way it goes sometimes.
The Indians tied the game against Ynoa from the bottom of their lineup. In the third inning, catcher Yan Gomes singled. Ynoa got two strikes on Indians #9 hitter Giovanny Urshela, who entered the game with a .588 OPS in his MLB career. That’s the guy to get out. Urshela instead blasted a pitch to deep center field that nearly turned into a home run. Instead, it was a run-scoring double to tie the game.
The tie game didn’t stay that way for long. Carlos Santana led off the fourth inning with a double. He advanced on a groundout and then was driven in by a Jay Bruce single, giving the Indians a 2-1 lead. Santana is good. Bruce is good. These guys will get their hits. That’s the way it goes sometimes. The offense just wasn’t up to the task.
A third Indians run crossed the plate in the fifth inning as the Indians put together a two out rally. Lonnie Chisenall reached on a single and scored easily when Santana doubled high off the left field fence.
The O’s were in a 3-1 hole. It wasn’t a blowout yet. Manager Buck Showalter gave Ynoa the hook and brought in Mychal Givens to try to stop the rally. Givens did so, getting Edwin Encarnacion to ground out to end that threat.
This decision was rewarded quickly. Tim Beckham led off the sixth inning by hitting a home run, his 20th of the season and eighth as an Oriole, to bring the O’s back within a run. Rather than try to push Tomlin a third time through the order, the Indians took him out in favor of their bullpen, starting with Joe Smith.
Adam Jones hit a two out single off Smith in that same inning. Jones had two of the five O’s hits. This was the last Orioles batter to reach base. Smith and the four relievers who followed him combined to retire the final 10 O’s batters in order. That’s just not how you’re going to stop a team that’s won 16 in a row.
The Indians snagged an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh inning when shortstop Francisco Lindor went deep against Darren O’Day. That was the 28th home run of the season for Lindor. The homer made sure that the tying run never got any closer than the on deck circle for the O’s. O’Day has now allowed a career-high eight home runs this year.
If the O’s are going to stave off a sweep, stop themselves from falling below .500, and halt the Indians winning streak all in one, they’ll be doing it in front of the ESPN Sunday Night Baseball audience tomorrow. Jeremy Hellickson and Trevor Bauer are scheduled to start the 8:05 game