We hear often in baseball, and in all sports, about teams that “find a way to win.” Teams that pick each other up when the chips are down. Teams that snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Teams that see a new hero emerge every day, that dig deep to find that little extra something to come up big.
The Mariners may be shaping up to be such a team. They have a very 2012 Orioles vibe about them. They’re 25-11 in one-run games and now 8-0 in extras. They’re getting contributions from up and down the roster and achieving success beyond what most people expected.
By the same token, there are teams that are exactly the opposite. Teams that find a way to lose.
Teams that pull each other down when the chips are up. Teams that toss potential victories into the jaws of defeat, where they are gleefully chewed up, swallowed, and digested. Teams that see a new goat emerge every day, that dig deep to find that little extra something that turns out to be food poisoning.
Welcome, friends, to another day of the 2018 Orioles.
In an utterly unsurprising development, the O’s were dealt a four-game sweep at the hands of Seattle. In an also unsurprising development, the O’s coughed the game away through a combination of horrific defense, untimely pitching lapses, and a nearly nonexistent offense.
After three frustrating losses to start the series — all of them by one or two runs — this is normally where the Orioles would’ve turned to their ace, Dylan Bundy, to play stopper. Unfortunately, he was on the DL after getting injured running the bases in Atlanta, because National League baseball is dumb. Jimmy Yacabonis, who has only been a starter professionally for about three months, took Bundy’s place, making his first major league start.
As a starter, Yacabonis was a heck of a reliever. He looked strong the first turn through the lineup but began to get cuffed around when batters saw him a second time. In the first three innings, he allowed just two baserunners and racked up four strikeouts, flashing a nasty slider that had Mariners hitters chasing often.
In the fourth, though, the M’s were ready for him. Yacabonis started the inning with a walk — his 20th walk in 26 major league innings — and former Oriole Nelson Cruz made him pay. Cruz, back in the lineup after missing two games with back discomfort, powered a two-run homer just over the right-field wall. Stopgap right fielder Danny Valencia nearly made a leaping catch to rob him, but fell just inches short. The Mariners led, 2-0. Yacabonis allowed a hard-hit double to the next batter, Ben Gamel, but kept him stranded.
As quickly as the Orioles fell behind, they tied things up. In the bottom of the fourth, they got solo home runs from both Manny Machado (yeah, not surprising) and Chris Davis (WHAT?!). Davis’s homer was his second in as many games, and it was an opposite-field shot, no less. Color me impressed.
The Mariners threatened to grab the lead back in the fifth, starting the inning with two straight singles. That was the end of Yacabonis’s day. You can tell he’s still trying to get used to this “starting pitcher” thing. He retired eight of the first 10 batters he faced and then allowed five of the next eight to reach base. Still, better than Chris Tillman!
Yefry Ramirez, who was recalled from Norfolk earlier in the day (with Donnie Hart getting optioned for the sixth — yes, sixth — time this season), did an excellent job to work out of Yacabonis’s mess. On a Jean Segura bunt, Ramirez showed quick reflexes off the mound to throw him out at first. He then retired Haniger on a grounder to third — with the runner at third freezing — and struck out Cruz to strand two men in scoring position.
Ramirez was the undisputed pitching star for the Orioles today. After escaping that fifth-inning jam, he tossed another four shutout innings, holding the Mariners to three singles. And he did all this while pitching on three days’ rest, having thrown 6.1 innings for Norfolk on Sunday. Ramirez is making a strong case to be the Orioles’ starter the next time Bundy’s vacated turn comes up in the rotation.
Sadly, Ramirez’s efforts went for naught. The O’s offense never scored other than that two-homer fourth inning. Veteran righty Mike Leake worked seven strong innings for the Mariners, giving up five hits and striking out six.
Nick Vincent and James Pazos each worked a scoreless inning. The O’s mounted a threat against Vincent in the eighth, putting two runners aboard, but Mark Trumbo swung at the first pitch and fouled out. On to extras we went, and that’s when things went south in a hurry.
Miguel Castro allowed an infield single to Dee Gordon to start the inning, and Jean Segura followed with a sharp single to center. The speedy Gordon was already on his way to third when center fielder Colby Rasmus (filling in for Adam Jones today) booted the ball. Gordon kept on motoring and raced home with the go-ahead run, sliding in well ahead of the throw.
In addition to that game-losing error, Rasmus went 0-for-5 at the plate and is hitting .136 with a .435 OPS. But by all means, let’s keep giving him regular starts instead of calling up D.J. Stewart. The 2018 Orioles, everyone!
The O’s erred again on the very next play, with third baseman Steve Wilkerson throwing wildly to first on a Haniger grounder. Cruz followed with an RBI single to extend the M’s lead to 4-2. Tanner Scott stranded two runners, for all the good that did.
The Orioles went down quietly in the home half of the 10th, with Juan Nicasio retiring them on seven pitches. And that’ll seal the four-game sweep.
For the 57th time in 80 games, the Orioles have found a way to lose.