Most of the time, the headline “Machado hits a game-winning home run” is going to be a good thing for the Orioles. Unfortunately for them, on Wednesday afternoon they were playing the Tigers, who have a player named Dixon Machado, and in a tied ninth inning of a back-and-forth game, it was the Tigers Machado who delivered the walkoff dinger to hand the O’s yet another dismal loss. The final score was 6-5 Tigers.
As late as the middle of the eighth inning, the story of the game for the O’s seemed like it could be one of triumph. Starting pitcher Kevin Gausman turned in a quality start, holding the Tigers to two runs in six innings. Both of the runs he gave up came on solo home runs, including a sixth-inning bomb hit by Miguel Cabrera, his second of the season and 464th of his career. It was Cabrera’s 35th birthday today.
The O’s trailed when Gausman left the game because their own offense continued to struggle against other teams starting pitchers, in this case Tigers lefty Matthew Boyd. They overcame a 2-1 deficit in the top of the eighth, though, taking advantage of some luck finally going their way to get some clutch hits to score runs.
Without hitting a homer in the inning, the O’s plated three runs to take a 4-2 lead. That included the oft-maligned Chris Davis coming inches away from a home run to get an RBI single, with Manny Machado and Adam Jones also driving in runs in the inning.
The good Orioles relievers were lined up to pitch the eighth and ninth innings. That should have been that. We have all seen enough of the 2018 O’s season to know that nothing goes right for very long, and so, despite summoning Darren O’Day with a two-run lead, the Orioles blew that lead and found themselves trailing by a 5-4 margin after just four batters.
The sequence went like this: Nicholas Castellanos double, Victor Martinez single, John Hicks home run. Who is John Hicks, you might ask? The Tigers backup catcher, playing in his fourth game of the season, without any RBI to his credit, that’s who. No big league pitcher has any business serving up three-run homers to such a person. Alas, this is the 2018 Orioles we’re talking about, where even the good bullpen pitchers have problems.
You might have expected the Orioles to just go quietly in the ninth inning, three up, three down, and then into the showers. This is not what happened. Instead, the O’s pinch hit for their own poor-hitting catcher, Caleb Joseph, by sending out... journeyman utility infielder Luis Sardiñas, who entered today with a .568 OPS in his MLB career.
What, is that a joke? Well, yes, but the joke ended up being on Tigers reliever Shane Greene, who allowed Sardiñas to hit just the sixth home run of his career, tying the game at 5-5. The Orioles, despite early problems on offense and late problems with their back end of the bullpen, had a new lease on life.
With Dixon Machado, the #9 hitter, due up first for the Tigers in the ninth, Buck Showalter called on the Rule 5 guy Pedro Araujo. Dixon Machado, it must be said, had a total of one MLB home run in 328 plate appearances prior to stepping into the box against Araujo today.
It is well and truly absurd that Machado would be the one, on a sub-40-degree day in Detroit, to end the game with a walkoff home run. That may be the best way to describe the 2018 Orioles: Well and truly absurd. Almost none of that has been in a good way.
So the Orioles lost once again, despite going 3-7 with runners in scoring position, despite getting a quality start from a starter who had some struggles early on, despite hitting two home runs. Things went their way a good bit and they still managed to lose to a Tigers team that was reeling just about as much as the Orioles were before this series began.
Now, the Orioles are 5-13 on this young season, losers of five games in a row and once again tied with the Rays for last place in the division. The season is barely more than 10% over and they are ten games back of first place. The Orioles continue to have the worst run differential in the American League, and if they need to win 89 games to qualify for a wild card spot, they have to go 84-60 from this game forward.
O’Day has pitched in seven games and has taken the loss twice. The same is true of Araujo, who did not even retire a batter today. The bullpen was supposed to be OK enough, even without Zach Britton. This has not been the case so far, with today only being the latest example. They finally scored some runs and they still lost. Baseball is a cruel thing, at least to us.
The Orioles were outhit by the Tigers, 13-7, in the game, so they were probably “supposed” to lose when you get down to it. The already-low team batting average of .215 heading into the game has gone down. The best batting average of the 5-9 hitters is .162 and none of them have an on-base percentage above .300. They struck out ten times again. Had O’Day pitched better, they might have won even though these things were stacked against them. So it goes.
The O’s will try to fight off a sweep as the series concludes with another afternoon game on Thursday at 1:10. Alex Cobb will be back in action for the O’s, looking to rebound from a tough debut in Boston, with Jordan Zimmermann, fresh off getting a line drive to the face in his last start, pitching for Detroit.
What else is there to say about these doofuses right now? They were supposed to be better than this and they aren’t. Even if you didn’t think they were good, you probably didn’t think they were “on pace to win 45 games”-level bad. I remain confident, at least for now, that the Orioles will win more than 45 games this season.
On the bright side, at least this will help us start getting used to the idea of Machado homering against the Orioles.