The Baltimore Orioles snatched defeat from the jaws of victory tonight, blowing a ninth inning lead and wasting a good game from starting pitcher David Hess. What felt like a comfortable lead evaporated in a moment and the end result was a 5-4 loss in 10 innings.
The Orioles held a three-run lead going into the ninth inning of this game. Getting three outs without giving up three runs is not a particularly tough thing to do if you are a major league pitcher, but tonight that didn’t happen.
Sure, even good pitchers can have bad nights. Brad Brach’s season has been up and down so far, so maybe he would have blown it anyway. But Buck Showalter did him no favors by bringing him into the game when he had already pitched the last two days. Other than the fact that Brach is the designated closer, there was no reason for him to be in there. How frustrating.
But let’s start at the top, shall we?
Rookie David Hess turned in yet another fine performance, lowering his ERA to 3.07 on the season. It’s only been five starts, but it’s now the best ERA in the starting rotation by nearly a full run. That is both exciting for Hess and kind of embarrassing for the rest of the rotation.
The Orioles handed Hess a lead before he stepped onto the field. Trey Mancini found himself back in the leadoff spot and celebrated with a double in his first at bat (the party didn’t last all night as he struck out in his next three at bats). Back-to-back Productive Outs For Orioles, AKA POFOs, brought the run home. Adam Jones grounded out softly, allowing Mancini to get to third, then Manny Machado hit a sac fly to bring him home.
Unfortunately the lead didn’t last long. The very first batter to step to the plate for the Blue Jays was Curtis Granderson, and he took Hess deep to tie the game. It was the 5th home run of the season for the 37 year old and the second he has hit off of Oriole pitching.
Both teams were seemingly comfortable with a tie score, because the game stayed that way until the seventh inning. Hess retired six in a row after the Granderson home run and looked to be in control during most of his outing.
The only trouble he ran into was in the fourth inning, and I’ll be honest friends, I thought he was going to fall apart. But the rookie proved me wrong. He walked the leadoff batter, Teoscar Hernandez, but then got out of the jam thanks to the strike ‘em out, throw ‘em out double play. That’s one of my favorite plays.
Hess was lucky that runner got thrown out, because he followed the double play by giving up a single and walk before finally retiring the side on a fly ball to center.
If Hess was rattled by his bad inning, it certainly didn’t show for the rest of his time in the game. He faced just six batters in the fifth and sixth innings (one single erased on a double play ball).
As for the Orioles offense, for most of this game it was just as inept as the Jays. They had their chances with runners on base, but they mostly blew it. And by “they” I pretty much mean Chris Davis.
In the fourth inning, Chris Davis came to the plate with two runners on and two outs. He struck out. In the sixth inning, starting pitcher Jaime Garcia gave up singles to Machado and Mark Trumbo, then with two outs pitched around Jonathan Schoop for three pitches before signaling they wanted to walk him intentionally. This loaded the bases for Chris Davis who, you guessed it, struck out.
It seems pointless at this point to talk about how Chris Davis had a bad night, because when is the last time Chris Davis didn’t have a bad night? He went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on the night. He is now just 22 behind Cal Ripken for the franchise record.
After six innings, Jaime Garcia came out of the game and the O’s offense was finally able to do something. The bespectacled Tyler Clipper came in to pitch in relief and Austin Wynns was happy to see him. He hit a long fly ball to left field for his first big league home run. Yay, Austin! The home run gave the Orioles a 2-1 lead and was part of a night of firsts for Wynns. He threw out his first base runner trying to steal earlier in the game.
Hess came back out for the seventh inning, but with a one-run lead and a pitch count hovering around 100, he was on a short leash. The first batter of the inning, Kendrys Morales, singled. That was enough for Showalter to pull Hess from the game, and I think the timing was perfect. So I guess Buck had that going for him tonight. Mychal Givens came on and stranded Hess’s runner, giving Hess a final pitching line of 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 4 K.
The Orioles padded their lead in the eighth inning as John Axford came in to pitch. Axford is quite a few years removed from his few good years as the Brewers closer, and he didn’t look sharp tonight. He did retire Machado, but back-to-back homers from Danny Valencia and Trumbo gave the Orioles a three-run lead. Surely a three-run lead would hold, right?
As mentioned earlier, Brach had already pitched in both games of the Mets series. Perhaps he was tired tonight? In the past Showalter has been pretty good at not overworking his relief pitchers. But he also has his guys, and he loves the save rule. And tonight, I believe he made a bad decision.
Brach got the first out of the ninth but it was all downhill from there. In quick succession, Brach gave up a walk, a double, a double, another walk, and a single. The end result was a tie game and dejected Brach walking off the field, having only pitched 1⁄3 of an inning.
Miguel Castro came in and cleaned up Brach’s mess to send it to extra innings, but he couldn’t get any further than that. Teoscar Hernandez started the inning with what looked like a single to left field. He went for second and it looked like he would be thrown out, but defensive replacement Joey Rickard made a terrible throw that ended up about five feet off of second base.
After an intentional walk to set up a double play, Castro struck out the next two batters and it seemed that the 11th inning might be forthcoming. But Castro couldn’t put away Aledmys Diaz, who singled to left. The ball went past Rickard and Hernandez scored easily from second, giving the Blue Jays the walk off win.
I’m pretty numb from all of the losing this year, but I have to admit, I thought they were going to win this one. They sure fooled me.