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Orioles again do just enough to lose, fall to Nats, 4-2

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It was a familiar story for the Orioles in D.C. as they ended up a day late and a dollar short in a last at-bat loss.

Baltimore Orioles v Washington Nationals Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Orioles had a chance tonight to get out of D.C. with a series win, one that would’ve been their first road series victory of the year in a city other than New York.

How do you think things turned out? I’ll give you three guesses. Hold the last two.

Oh, the O’s made a game of it. Kevin Gausman battled. Colby Rasmus contributed. The O’s hit some dingers. In the end, though, the Orioles did the same thing they always do: they found a way to lose.

The game-deciding inning was the bottom of the eighth, when Mychal Givens — out for his second inning of work — ran into immediate trouble in a 2-2 tie. Bryce Harper led off by pulling a double inside the first-base line, and Trea Turner looped a single to center to put men on the corners. Givens delayed the inevitable with a strikeout, but wunderkind Juan Soto lashed a gapper to left-center to plate both runners and give the Nationals the lead.

Soto is now hitting .326 with a 1.024 OPS in 28 major league games. As a reminder, Juan Soto is 19 years old. What were you doing at age 19? Me, I was writing on the internet about a horrific Orioles team, so pretty much nothing has changed.

Even before Givens blew up in the eighth, he nearly did the same in the seventh. Wilmer Difo led off that inning with a triple to right field over Colby Rasmus’s head. Rasmus redeemed himself, though, by throwing out Difo at the plate on a Daniel Murphy fly to right.

Had the Orioles won this game, Rasmus would’ve been a shoo-in for Most Birdland Player, a poll that barely gets to see the light of day this season. Talk about an unexpected contribution. The O’s activated Rasmus from the DL before the game and immediately plugged him into the lineup for the first time since April 6. He’d gone 2-for-21 with 13 strikeouts in his eight games before his hip injury, and many people — myself included — wondered why the Orioles were even bothering trying to resurrect him.

Rasmus immediately silenced the doubters, at least for one game, by hammering a solo homer off three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer in his first-bat, giving him his first O’s dong. That, plus his (temporarily) game-saving defensive play in the seventh, made the Birds’ decision to bring him back seem prescient.

Mark Trumbo added a solo blast in the fourth, his sixth of the year and third in his last four games. Aside from those two bad pitches, though, Scherzer was his usual dominant self. He worked seven strong innings, giving up five hits and striking out nine.

Scherzer’s counterpart, Kevin Gausman, also wound up with a quality start, but his didn’t come easy. Gausman labored for 114 pitches in six innings and was in constant danger, giving back each of the one-run leads the O’s staked him to.

Gausman didn’t help himself by walking four batters. He limited the damage to two runs — one on a Harper sac fly in the third and the other on an Anthony Rendon homer in the sixth — and was the beneficiary of two double plays as well as a fantastic diving stop by third baseman Steve Wilkerson (making his first major league start) in the second inning.

Ultimately, Gausman managed to avoid a loss. His team wasn’t so lucky. After the Nationals’ go-ahead rally in the eighth, the O’s went down without a peep against Nats closer Sean Doolittle in the ninth, sealing a rubber game loss and yet another road series defeat. And so it goes for the 2018 Orioles.