As the Orioles plod along to what could well be their worst season in franchise history, one thing we haven’t really seen this season is a good, old-fashioned on-field shouting match. The O’s have been pretty even-keeled, not getting riled up about much of anything. That changed tonight.
We’ll start this recap with the top of the ninth inning, where, on their way to another loss, the Orioles’ let out some frustrations on a controversial ump. After a Mitch Haniger leadoff single, Darren O’Day appeared to have retired Nelson Cruz on a foul pop to first base. But home plate umpire Stu Scheurwater inexplicably called a balk on O’Day, making the call well after Cruz had already put the ball in play. I’m no expert, but if you’re going to call a balk, shouldn’t you do it while the pitch is being thrown? You can’t just wait and be like, “After careful consideration, I’ve decided that what you did on that pitch five minutes ago was unacceptable.”
O’Day barely had time to react before Scheurwater threw him out of the game for...reasons. I don’t know. That brought a steaming mad Buck Showalter out of the dugout to confront Scheurwater. Reading his lips, Showalter said something that rhymed with “bull spit.” I’m going to say it was “tool kit.” In the MASN booth, Gary Thorne even broke out a “jeepers.” WATCH THE LANGUAGE, GARY. THIS IS FAMILY PROGRAMMING.
Showalter, too, got ejected. And on Buck “Snowalter” Snow Globe giveaway night, no less! You might say the umps gave Buck a frosty reception. #dadjokes
Fun fact: that was only the second balk O’Day has ever been charged with in his career. The first one came last April 20 — and it was also called by Scheurwater, and also led to a Showalter ejection. So, yeah. There’s history here.
Cruz, with his popout wiped off the board, walked against Zach Britton to extend the rally. The Mariners didn’t end up scoring that inning, though, so the baffling balk call didn’t end up mattering to the outcome.
No, the game was actually decided in the top of the seventh through, as usual, Orioles ineptitude. In a 3-3 tie, Miguel Castro came in from the bullpen and promptly made a giant mess of things. Castro committed the cardinal sin of issuing a leadoff walk — and in this case, it was to the No. 9 hitter, Guillermo Heredia — and then he proved to be just as bad at throwing to first base as he was to the plate. Castro came off the mound to field a Dee Gordon bunt but didn’t get much oomph on his toss to first, allowing the speedy Gordon to beat the throw.
Compounding his problems, Castro walked the next man, Jean Segura, to load the bases for the middle of the Mariners’ lineup. But it didn’t matter who was up; Castro just handed them a run. With Haniger at the plate, Castro bounced a pitch into the ground. Caleb Joseph was able to block it, but while trying to shift his weight, he accidentally kicked the ball into foul territory on the first base side. Heredia came speeding home to score the go-ahead run.
Castro stayed in long enough to allow a Haniger sac fly and intentionally walk Nelson Cruz. He retired only one of the five batters he faced. A silver lining was that rookie lefty Tanner Scott looked impressive, whiffing two hitters in a row to limit the damage. But it was much like closing the barn door after the horses had gotten loose.
Leading up to that, it was a closely contested game. The two starting pitchers had nearly identical pitching lines; both the Orioles’ Andrew Cashner and the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez worked six innings and gave up three earned runs on four hits. Cashner had four walks and three strikeouts; Hernandez the reverse. Felix, though, was a bit more efficient. He threw 81 pitches to Cashner’s 100.
Still, if I’d told you that Cashner would deliver a quality start today, you probably wouldn’t have believed me if you’d watched his second inning. That frame spiraled out of control for Cashner after he got two quick outs. Denard Span singled and then Cashner lost the strike zone, walking the next two hitters on a total of nine pitches. He quickly fell behind Gordon 3-0 in the count and was forced to throw a meatball down the middle, which Gordon ripped up the middle for a two-run single. Cashner followed with another four-pitch walk before Haniger, taking pity on the man, hacked at the first pitch — Cashner’s 30th of the inning — and popped out to strand the bases loaded.
For the rest of Cashner’s night, it was as if that second inning had never happened. He got into a groove, retiring 12 of the last 14 batters he faced and even striking out the side in the third. A notable exception was Span, who powered a solo home run in the sixth inning, to which Stacey remarked, “THAT guy? He’s like 100!”
Meanwhile, the Mariners’ Hernandez is no longer the dominant King Felix of old, but you really don’t need to be against this Orioles offense. He cruised through the first three innings with little difficulty. The O’s posted a mini-threat in the fourth by putting two runners on with one out, but he struck out .151-hitting Chris Davis and Trey “.096 with RISP” Mancini. Those might be the two hitters O’s fans least want to see come up in that situation. Well, they probably also don’t want to see .204-hitting Jonathan Schoop or .179-hitting Tim Beckham or...hmm, it turns out the Orioles have a lot of terrible hitters. Did anyone know this?
Schoop, perhaps taking umbrage over my comment about him in the previous sentence, got the Birds on the board with a leadoff homer in the fifth, his eighth of the year. The O’s then used some POFOs (productive outs for Orioles) to tie the game in the sixth.
Manny Machado got it started with a single and Mark Trumbo walked, bringing up the same duo that failed earlier, Davis and Mancini. Davis barely had to do anything; Hernandez’s first pitch hit him on the foot to load the bases.
Mancini’s struggles with runners in scoring position continued, but this case he hit into some bad luck. He scalded a liner down the left-field line that landed just an inch foul, if that. Then he poked a grounder to the left side that looked like a sure single, but the shortstop Segura made a nice diving stop and got a force at second. Mancini got an RBI out of it, at least, but he’s still looking for an elusive hit with ducks on the pond.
Schoop followed with a hot shot that deflected off Hernandez. The Mariners got the out at first, but Trumbo scored to knot the game at three. Beckham made a bid for a go-ahead hit, only for the 100-year-old left fielder Span to make a diving catch of his sinking fly ball.
The tie game was short-lived, thanks to Castro’s eighth-inning control problems. Trailing once more, the Orioles didn’t score again. Three Mariners relievers retired the final nine batters of the game, four on strikeouts, to seal the Orioles’ 54th loss of the season. At least Buck didn’t have to stick around to watch it.