It looked like this would be another game when the Orioles’ offense would be missing in action. And it was, until the seventh inning.
Down 1-0 despite a couple of scoring opportunities, the Orioles were inching closer to logging their 99th loss of the season. Mariners’ starter Wade LeBlanc had glided through six innings, allowing six hits on just 68 pitches.
Seattle manager Scott Servais brought in Adam Warren to start the seventh, and Renato Nunez promptly crushed a 3-2 hanging slider way back in left-center for his fourth homer of the year to tie the game at 1-1. Cedric Mullins, pinch-hitting for John Andreoli, then applied an inside-out swing for an opposite field single. Breyvic Valera, getting the start at second base, failed to get a bunt down, taking the count to 1-2 before hitting a soft liner just over the second baseman’s reach for a hit, sending Mullins to second.
Lefty reliever Zach Duke entered to face Austin Wynns who also failed to lay down the sacrifice before lining out softly to right. The Orioles then showed a glimpse of the future when Villar hit a hard single to left, bringing Mullins home flying around third and giving the Birds a 2-1 lead.
What followed was one of those baseball moments that you may have never seen. Joey Rickard flied out deep to center and both runners tagged. Denard Span smartly threw to second where it looked like Villar would be a dead duck. But instead, he somehow came to a dead stop just before reaching the bag.
Seattle’s Dee Gordon chased him back to first while Valera kept running toward the plate. Gordon bobbled the ball adjusting to throw home and Valera beat the tag for the Orioles’ third run. Trey Mancini followed with a rocket to left center to score Villar and make it 4-1.
In other words, the Orioles almost ran themselves out of the inning, but instead, scored two more runs.
And they would need them because, of course, the Orioles couldn’t ride this to an easy win. After pitching a scoreless seventh in relief of Alex Cobb, Paul Fry allowed three runners to reach with just one out in the eighth. Closer Mychal Givens came on for the five-out save and immediately induced Ryon Healy to hit a double play ball. Except that after taking Villar’s throw for one out at second, Valera rushed unnecessarily and threw wildly to first, past Mancini, scoring two runs.
At 4-3, the 99th loss seemed in view again. But Givens got a strikeout to end the threat and closed it out in the ninth. Chris Davis added an insurance run in the ninth with his second hit of the night driving in Villar.
Orioles’ starter Alex Cobb pitched well again, allowing just four hits and one run for his seventh quality start in his last eight appearances. He struggled a bit in the first inning, taking 25 pitches to get three outs, but not before allowing a solo home run to Mariners’ Robinson Cano who turned on a hanging splitter and lined it into the right field stands. This was Cano’s third dinger since completing his 80-game PED suspension.
The Orioles had chances to score earlier in the game. Chris Davis lined a one-out single to right in the second inning, improving his career stats against LeBlanc to 4-for-7. Nunez followed with a hard grounder up the middle that used to be a guaranteed hit off the bat in pre-shift years. Surprise! No shift and the ball rolled to center field.
Valera then slapped an outside pitch to shallow right field, near the line. With two outs, it looked like the Orioles would tie the game, but right fielder Ben Gamel was playing in, grabbed the ball on the first bounce and threw a strike to get Davis at home.
The Orioles played some small ball in the fifth inning, but Gamel spoiled their party again. Andreoli led off the inning with a single to center. Valera followed with a nifty sac bunt, bringing Wynns up to the plate. He hit a soft fly ball down the right field line that was snared by Gamel, looking like a superhero flying through the air.
The Orioles had another chance to score when Joey Rickard started the sixth with a hard-hit grounder that ate up Cano, playing third base for just the second time in his career. Mancini then sent a rocket to left center for a single. Two on, no out with Adam Jones due. But Jones looked over anxious and grounded into a 5-4-3 double play. With Rickard at third, Davis followed with a soft pop up to shallow left center that Segura caught for the final out.
Another opportunity missed, but it turned out not to be the last one. The Orioles kept grinding and eventually came through. They will look to take the series Wednesday at 10:10.
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