The one deep commitment of the 2018 Orioles is to find as many ways as possible to lose baseball games. This is especially true for their road games. Following Friday’s 6-4 defeat at the hands of the Athletics in Oakland, the Orioles have now lost ten straight games on the road. They fall to 8-24 overall with the loss.
There have been utterly unwinnable games that the Orioles have played during this road trip. Friday’s loss was frustrating because it was not one of those games. The Orioles had their share of chances and even capitalized on some of them, but they ultimately could not overcome poor starting pitching and a shoddy defense. These are not new problems for the team.
Before moving on to the not-so-lovely totals of this particular game, I just want to reiterate that the Orioles have a .250 winning percentage through 32 games. They are now on pace to win 41 games, if you round up.
In a 4-1 hole after the first inning of the game, the Orioles battled their way back to a 4-4 tie in their half of the sixth inning. This made things briefly thrilling, at least until the O’s defense and Brad Brach combined to let the game’s decisive run cross the plate in the bottom of the inning.
Brach opened the inning against the #8 A’s hitter, Stephen Piscotty. Brach got a grounder to Manny Machado, an outcome that Orioles fans are used to thinking is good. However, on this occasion, Machado side-armed the throw to first base and it tailed away from Chris Davis. Maybe Davis should have caught it, but he didn’t, and Piscotty was safe while Machado was charged with his fifth error of the year.
The #9 hitter, Jonathan Lucroy, followed with a double, giving the A’s a favorable second-and-third with no one out. Brach battled from there, getting a shallow flyout where no one could tag, then a ground ball into the drawn-in infield where substitute second baseman Jace Peterson made what I would uncharitably describe as his first good play as an Oriole to field with a good throw home to cut down the runner.
These plays amounted to Lucy setting up the football for my cartoon kinsman Charlie Brown. Another grounder and the ball was yanked away. Jed Lowrie, the A’s hottest hitter, bounced a ball past a diving Davis, past a diving Peterson, and into right field.
The play appeared, to this cranky blogger whose Friday night was spent watching all of this, to be one that Peterson ought to have made. He did not make the play. The fifth run scored instead and the Orioles were down for good. The MASN broadcast noted that this was the 19th unearned run allowed by the Orioles so far this season. This is what the French call les incompetents.
For a very short time, the Orioles actually led the game. Adam Jones blasted a solo home run in the first inning, the fifth dinger of the year for Jones. It is a special night in its own way when the team breaks up the no-hitter the first time through the order. That was the first of three hits on the night for Jones.
Regrettably, there was still Orioles starting pitching to contend with. It was Andrew Cashner’s turn on Friday night. He walked the first batter he saw in the game. It gets worse than that. Cashner did successfully get a ground ball that should have resulted in a force play at second base. However, Machado made a poor throw to second base and Peterson was unable to catch it. Everyone was safe. The error was charged to Peterson.
The extra runner cost the Orioles in a hurry. Oakland’s Khris Davis with a K obliterated a baseball to drive in three runs against Cashner. First baseman Matt Olson followed up with a home run of his own, putting the Orioles in a 4-1 hole.
The runs mean that the Orioles have now been outscored 40-11 in the first inning this year. While the bad stats are being tossed out there, Cashner has now allowed nine home runs in 38.2 innings for the season. This is, obviously, bad, and stands out since he gave up just 15 home runs in 166.2 innings last season.
On the night, Cashner took 114 pitches to get through just 4.2 innings of work, giving up four runs (three earned) on six hits and three walks. All four runs scored on a pair of home runs. Cashner also struck out five men. The game could have been worse for the bullpen in the aftermath of Chris Tillman’s one inning start. That’s the best that can be said about it.
With the 2018 Orioles subscribing to the philosophy of scoring as few runs as possible off of opposing starting pitchers, they waited until the sixth inning, when A’s starter Daniel Mengden, wielder of the Rollie Fingers lookalike moustache, was out of the game to start getting some offense.
Jones led off the sixth against Yusmeiro Petit by bunting his way on base. Yes, it can be done. From there, they started ripping baseballs, with four more singles that combined to plate three runs to tie the game. This was a nice rally and it led to Petit being bounced from the game before completing an inning. The next reliever, Lou Trivino, promptly induced an inning-ending double-play grounder from Peterson.
Although Caleb Joseph led off the seventh inning with a double, the Orioles did not score again. Brach’s bottom of the sixth inning meant that the O’s fell behind for good. Later, because we can’t have nice things this year even for one inning, the A’s scored another run off of Darren O’Day. As the Orioles did not even get a man on base in the ninth inning, that insurance run had no material impact on the outcome of the game.
The doom of the 2018 Orioles is already more than sealed. The reckoning of what will be done about that doom remains to be seen, though it creeps closer every day. The Orioles had a plan and it has failed almost completely.
The O’s will be back in action with a 9:05 game on Saturday. Perhaps they can stop this road losing streak before it hits 11 games. Kevin Gausman and Trevor Cahill are the scheduled starters for the contest.