The Orioles have lost the types of game this season that they won in previous seasons. Chalk tonight up as another one of those. Even last year’s disappointing club managed to go 21-20 in one-run games. Tonight’s 3-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox dropped the O’s to 3-7 in such games and 15-33 overall.
Kevin Gausman was largely responsible for Baltimore taking a 2-0 lead into the eighth inning. Questionable managing and poor defense then cost the O’s a chance to guarantee a series split. Needing six outs to win, Buck Showalter opted to bring Craig Gentry in as a defensive replacement. Smart move. But he replaced Trey Mancini in left field, not Mark Trumbo (presumably the defensive weak link) in right. Naturally, Daniel Palka led off the inning with a triple that bounced off the heel of Trumbo’s glove as he ran toward the corner. Trumbo had to cover a lot of ground which made it a difficult catch, but it was a play that major league outfielders needs to make. This foreshadowed the events to follow.
The questionable managing continued from there as Mychal Givens (0-1) was left in the game too long. Givens pitched two fantastic innings last night and recorded the final two outs of the seventh inning after Gausman was removed. He was left in for the eighth tonight and threw over thirty pitches before being removed. He was clearly out of gas well before he was pulled.
This sequence of events resulted in the White Sox scoring three runs in the eighth to win the game. Following Palka’s triple off of Trumbo’s glove, our old friend Welington Castillo singled in Chicago’s first run. After loading the bases, Givens was (finally) replaced by Richard Bleier. He allowed a sacrifice fly to Yoan Moncada to tie the game and then a back-breaking two-out single to Yolmer Sanchez that put the White Sox ahead for good.
Through seven innings, this looked liked it would be the O’s sixth road victory of the season. Kevin Gausman bounced back from a disappointing start in Boston to deliver 6.1 shutout innings and was more dominating than his line suggests. He struck out a career-high ten batters, induced twenty-five swings and misses, and walked one. The nine hits allowed is alarming, but many of those were softly hit. Gausman was completely in control all evening and again got better as the game went on; four of his final five outs were recorded via strikeout. His ERA is now a respectable 3.48.
The O’s opened the scoring off of James Shields in the second inning. After a Jonathan Schoop single and Pedro Alvarez walk, Mark Trumbo absolutely crushed a double (113 MPH off the bat) into the left field corner to plate Schoop. Jace Peterson took advantage of an infield that was playing back and produced an RBI groundout. After Chance Sisco walked to load the bases, Trey Mancini swung at the first pitch (why??) and popped up to end a rally that could have been larger.
Mark Trumbo registered his second double of the game in the fourth inning but was stranded in scoring position. Another scoring opportunity was wasted in the fifth inning due to a baserunning mistake. With Sisco at second and Mancini at first, Adam Jones flied out to right field. Sisco bluffed tagging up but drifted too far off the bag and was tagged out for a double play. It is unclear what Sisco was thinking and the puzzled look captured by cameras on Jones’ face summed up the situation well.
The White Sox had plenty of traffic on the basepaths throughout the game, as Gausman recorded only one clean inning. It looked like Chicago would finally break through in the sixth after putting runners on second and third with no outs. But Gausman reached another level, striking out Leury Garcia, Jose Rondon, and Adam Engel in dominating fashion to end the inning. Gausman showed some emotion coming off the mound, a refreshing sight when watching a 15-32 club.
The O’s squandered more potential opportunities in the seventh and eighth. Trumbo recorded his third hit of the game to start the seventh but was erased on a double play. Adam Jones doubled in the eighth but was stranded when Manny Machado struck out against Bruce Rondon (2-2), whose timely appearance in this game got him a win.
Mychal Givens looked very good before running out of gas, picking up big outs for the second game in a row. He replaced Gausman with one runner on in the seventh and retired Jose Abreu and Matt Davidson.
After the Sox’ rally to take the lead, the O’s made some noise in the ninth against Nate Jones. Chris Davis walked to lead off and Trumbo singled with one out. Jace Peterson worked the count to 3-0 before lining to shallow center. Sisco struck out and Jones collected his fourth save.
The story of the O’s not synchronizing all facets of the game continued tonight. They got a fantastic pitching performance but couldn’t score runs and the bullpen faltered. Especially frustrating in this game were Showalter’s decisions. The bullpen is clearly in rough shape with Darren O’Day and Zach Britton hurt. But Givens had no idea where his pitches were going by the end of this outing. And why replace Mark Trumbo, a poor defender, instead of Trey Mancini, an average defender, in a situation that calls for solid defense? Showalter has been masterful at putting players in a position to succeed during his time in Baltimore. That wasn’t the case tonight.
This four-game series continues tomorrow night at 8:10 when the O’s will send Alex Cobb (1-5, 6.56) out to face Dylan Covey (0-1, 6.00). Maybe tomorrow is the day offense, defense, starting pitching, and bullpen can all come together for the Orioles.