I hate to be the bearer of bad news, folks, but the Orioles aren’t going to go 161-1.
The Birds’ four-game win streak dissipated Wednesday afternoon, with the Blue Jays staving off a sweep in a 5-3 decision. Matt Shoemaker and Randal Grichuk were a two-man wrecking crew for Toronto, the former tossing seven scoreless innings and the latter blasting two homers and scoring three runs, and a frantic ninth-inning comeback attempt by the O’s fell just short.
The afternoon got off to an inauspicious start when, on what should’ve been the third out of the first inning, third baseman Rio Ruiz sailed a throw wildly over Chris Davis’s head. The costly miscue plated Grichuk, who had doubled, and staked Toronto to a 1-0 lead. The Orioles have mostly been improved with the leather this season — this was just their second error, and first unearned run allowed — but that misplay brought back nightmarish memories of the 2018 team defense.
It was the beginning of a rough day with the glove for Ruiz. In the third, he gloved a Luke Maile infield hopper instead of barehanding it, costing him the chance to get the out at first. An inning later, Ruiz nearly uncorked another errant throw after fielding a routine bouncer, forcing Chris Davis to sprawl into the dirt while barely keeping his toe on the bag. It would be quite unfortunate if Rio has the yips. Batters tend to hit the ball to third base every so often, you know.
O’s opener Nate Karns, for the second time in as many starts, worked exactly two innings. The unearned run in the first was his only blemish; Karns looked pretty impressive otherwise, striking out four batters and throwing 23 of 32 pitches for strikes. As before, he was relieved by Jimmy Yacabonis, who gave up one run — on a Grichuk third-inning dinger — in 2.1 innings.
The early deficit, though, was too much to overcome. The Orioles’ offense simply couldn’t get anything going against the veteran righty Shoemaker, who followed up his impressive Blue Jays debut last week with an equally spectacular outing today. In fact, his final pitching line was almost identical to his previous start against Detroit. In both cases, he worked seven shutout innings and gave up just two hits. He one-upped his strikeout total this afternoon, fanning eight Orioles as opposed to seven Tigers.
The O’s put just four runners on base against Shoemaker, and two of them were erased on baserunning shenanigans. Renato Nunez was hit by a pitch in the second but, mistakenly thinking he’s fast, tried to steal second and was cut down by a fair margin. In the fifth, Ruiz lashed a ground-rule double to right-center — the Orioles’ first and only extra-base hit off Shoemaker — and Davis walked on four pitches. But on a Pedro Severino liner to third, Ruiz got caught too far off second and was easily doubled off. Rough day for Mr. Ruiz.
Otherwise, Shoemaker was nearly unhittable. He retired the O’s in order four times, keeping hitters in a constant state of confusion and haplessness. Only one runner got into scoring position, the aforementioned, doomed Ruiz. Shoemaker became the first opposing pitcher this year to toss at least six innings against the Orioles.
The game brought a memorable moment for new Oriole Matt Wotherspoon, who made his big league debut in the seventh. The 27-year-old righty has been toiling in the minors since 2014, spending the entire 2018 season at Triple-A Norfolk before getting the call today to replace the DFA’d Pedro Araujo. With his parents and fiancee in attendance at Rogers Centre, Wotherspoon began his big league career with a scoreless inning of work.
Unfortunately, he returned to the mound for a second inning, and that one didn’t go so well. Grichuk tagged him for his second roundtripper of the game, and the Jays strung together a two-out walk, single, and double to bring home another pair of runs.
The O’s, who have shown plenty of spunk so far this young season, didn’t give up without a fight. Even trailing 5-0 in the ninth, the Birds made a game of it against Blue Jays reliever Daniel Hudson. A pair of soft singles by Dwight Smith Jr. and Jonathan Villar set up the club’s most productive hitter, Trey Mancini, who clobbered a three-run homer to straightaway center.
Trey, if you haven’t noticed, is absolutely crushing it so far. He’s hitting .417, and he leads the Orioles with three homers and eight RBIs, and he’s tied for third in the AL in RBIs as of this writing. With one mighty swing, he sliced the O’s deficit to just two runs.
Alas, the rally died there. The Jays turned to closer Ken Giles, who struck out Nunez and Ruiz to end the game. Well, bummer.
The O’s were stymied in their attempt to win five games in a row, something the club never accomplished last season. They’ve got 156 more games to try to string together a longer streak.
Still, if you’d told me a week ago that the Orioles would go 4-2 with two series wins on their opening road trip, I would’ve signed up for that in blood. I mean, not literally. That’s gross. But the O’s have plenty to be proud of as they finally make their way to Baltimore for tomorrow’s home opener. See you there!