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Orioles complete winless California trip with 2-1 loss to Athletics

The Orioles have now lost twelve straight road games. They got little offense and were sunk by defensive mishaps despite a strong start from Alex Cobb.

Baltimore Orioles v Oakland Athletics
Chris Davis struck out twice on Sunday and made the final out of the game with the tying run on third base.
Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

With a 2-1 loss to the Athletics on Sunday afternoon to complete a winless west coast trip, the Orioles provided another reminder that they are a bad baseball team. Of late, each game is its own unique reminder. Though there was a solid start from Alex Cobb, the O’s offense and defense combined to let him down and the Orioles lost yet again.

The Orioles are so bad right now that comparisons to the woeful 1988 Orioles are creeping in more and more. Their road struggles, now sitting at twelve losses in a row outside of Camden Yards, have earned them that dubious honor.

The Orioles have not been this bad in 30 years. That’s all there is to it. Time will tell if they are worse than that. The ‘88 team was a mere 5-29 after playing 34 games - still three games worse than these O’s, hard as that is to believe. They went on to finish 54-107. The 2018 Orioles are now on pace to win just 38 games. Eventually they will stop losing, probably.

If you have been inflicting these games upon yourself, the fact that they are losing so much is not a surprise. They look like a losing team full of losers who lose. They cannot hit. They cannot field. Most nights, at least one person cannot pitch, though that was less of a problem on Sunday with Cobb continuing to round more into the form the O’s were hoping to see when they signed him to a four-year contract in late March.

Altogether, it paints an embarrassing tableau. There is just no reason to get only three hits in a game started by Andrew Triggs. Yet that’s exactly what the Orioles did, striking out nine times in the seven innings Triggs pitched. Triggs had an ERA over 5 when the game began. After seven innings where the only run he gave up was a Pedro Alvarez home run, it is now down to 4.41. Pitchers must love to face these Orioles right now.

The second inning solo home run by Alvarez was his seventh dinger of the season. This gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead that they managed to hold for a couple of innings.

Unfortunately for the Orioles, Alvarez was not in the lineup as the designated hitter. They placed him, instead, at third base. This will never not be something to dread. Alvarez should not play third base. There the Orioles put him this afternoon nonetheless.

Trouble struck in the fourth inning. Athletics left fielder Matt Joyce led off the inning by hitting a double. The next batter, Mark Canha, hit a grounder back to Cobb. Joyce was coming to third base on the play. Cobb threw the ball to Alvarez, who dropped the throw. Joyce retreated to second base as Alvarez picked up the ball, but he was still going to be toast.

Alvarez threw towards second base in only the loosest sense. The ball instead soared into right field. Joyce got third base after all and Canha got to second base on the play. What should have been a man on first with one out turned into men on second and third with none out.

This is the kind of ridiculous stuff that you have to increasingly expect from this sad-sack bunch of players. It’s not even like it’s Alvarez’s fault that the team brain trust managed to construct a roster where any number of injuries would lead to his playing third base. It is not his fault that manager Buck Showalter puts him out there. He is not a third baseman! Stop making Alvarez play third base.

The botched play led to the two Oakland runs. Khris Davis with a K grounded out to second base. Maybe this would have been an inning-ending double play if the other play hadn’t been screwed up. Instead, it was a run-scoring groundout. After that, Matt Olson hit what looked off the bat to be a sacrifice fly towards center field - at least until the wind blew it away from Craig Gentry and it fell in for a double.

Gentry was playing center field for the day with Adam Jones getting the day off after being hit by a pitch in the wrist on Saturday night. I don’t know if Gentry should have caught this ball. Canha would have scored even if it was a sacrifice fly, so it doesn’t really matter. Olson got himself thrown out on the basepaths like a nincompoop with a failed attempt to steal third base and the Athletics left the inning with a 2-1 lead.

That’s it. That was the offense for the game. Cobb was good, allowing just one earned run on five hits and a walk in six innings. He struck out five batters. It’s now been about six weeks since he signed. Maybe that was the time he needed.

Still a mystery is what the offense needs. After Jace Peterson led off the fourth inning with a single, the next 15 Orioles batters were retired in order. That took the Orioles all the way to the ninth inning, when pinch hitter Trey Mancini chopped a ball that barely even reached the infield grass.

A’s catcher Jonathan Lucroy couldn’t field the backspin and Mancini was on with a single, representing the tying run. Lucroy couldn’t get a glove on an errant pitch from A’s closer Blake Treinen, so just like that, Mancini was in scoring position with nobody out.

That sounds pretty good, except that the next two batters were Gentry and Peterson, who were the #1 and #2 hitters in the lineup in this particular contest. Gentry squared to bunt for the wild pitch and the bunt sign stayed on even after Mancini advanced to second base.

Mancini was successfully bunted to third base, but what the heck is the point of setting up that scoring chance for Peterson? The question has no answer. Even with a better batter due up, better to take three chances with the man already in scoring position. Peterson grounded out directly into the drawn-in infield. Mancini had no chance to score.

The small hope provided by Manny Machado being due up next was extinguished quickly when the A’s intentionally walked Machado. This was absolutely the rational decision with Chris Davis on deck. Why would anyone pitch to Machado in that situation? Davis is batting .171 and has not had an extra-base hit since April 20.

In a small but ultimately meaningless surprise, Davis flew out rather than struck out to end the game, sealing the Orioles 0-for-California road trip. Davis got his two strikeouts in earlier in the game and was 0-4. He’s now five strikeouts shy of 52nd on the career strikeout list.

This team is bad. They get a day off on Monday as they return to Baltimore, where a series against the Royals begins on Tuesday. Enjoy the day where you don’t have them ruining any part of it.