Q: What happens when two bad pitching staffs meet up at Coors Field?
A: (You know this one…) Dongs. Dongs. And more dongs. Seven, to be exact. These two teams lead their respective leagues in home runs allowed, and though the Rockies aren’t chasing history like the O’s, both lineups were hacking like lumberjacks today.
In the battle of bad pitching staffs, victory clearly went to the Orioles’ starter. Means completely outclassed Colorado’s Jeff Hoffman, who was called up today from AAA and looked like he really belonged there. Hoffman telegraphed his fastball and missed badly over the plate all day. Only bad luck and a TOOTBLAN kept the Orioles from tagging Hoffman more than they did—and their failure to get more runs off a struggling pitcher helped pave the way for yet another late-innings defeat.
But what am I doing blaming the hitters? Games should be over when you lead by 5-1 and 6-3. Well, never count out the 2019 bullpen. Today, Shawn Armstrong deserves most of the blame for the collapse, coughing up three runs on two dingers in the seventh before he’d recorded an out. Then, with a tie game in the ninth, Mychal Givens couldn’t hold on to the lead, allowing a two-out, two-run walkoff home run to Trevor Story.
You might not need to read the rest of this recap, but if you care to stick around, it was a pretty fun game to that point.
John Means turned in, not a dominant, but a plucky and ultimately decent performance against a stacked lineup. In the first, he froze Trevor Story on an inside changeup, but fed the dangerous Nolan Arenado a center-cut changeup that Arenado clobbered to left. 1-0 Rockies. Up came Daniel Murphy, who tagged a high fastball over Dwight Smith Jr’s head. DSJ bobbled the ball off the wall, then—sloppiness!—the cutoff man bobbled the throw-in, and had Murphy not tripped (shall we say slid?) into third, he would have been home on the play. Fortunately, Means recovered to end the inning on an Ian Desmond foul tip.
Interviewing catchers coach Tim Cossins in the bottom of the inning, Gary Thorne remarked, “I don’t know what to say about these homers flying out of there day in, day out.” Speaking of home runs, Gary—the Orioles’ newest acquisition, Keon Broxton, chose that very moment to drill an absolute bomb deep to center. It’d been a while since I’d heard a home run that sounded like that. According to Statcast, that thing traveled 474 feet, the O’s longest since 2015 and good enough to tie Josh Bell for 2nd longest of the season. 2-1 Orioles. By then, the Orioles were teeing off on Hoffman fastballs like it was batting practice. Alberto doubled to left, then scored when Severino tagged one that Ian Desmond sort of just looked at, thinking it was out. 3-1 Orioles. But after John Means delighted the dugout by laying down a great bunt, things sputtered out: a swing-happy Villar got jammed on an inside fastball, and Stevie Wilkerson grounded out.
Hoffman returned to his same antics in the third. After burying a fastball into the backstop against DSJ, Hoffman left him one right down the middle. Gone! 4-1 Orioles.
It was amateur hour for the Orioles in the fourth, even as the Orioles padded their lead. Hanser Alberto led off with a Bermuda Triangle single, then got erased on a Severino fielder’s choice. Means drew a walk (to Bronx cheers from his teammates), and Villar tattooed a curveball into the right field corner to score Alberto. 5-1. Then, blown opportunities. Wilkerson grounded out with men on second and third and one out, and the O’s threw in the third out for free as Villar boneheadedly ran on the play, sacrificing Means in the no man’s land between third and home.
After his adventures on the base paths, things got messy for Means in the fourth. He surrendered a two-out double to David Dahl, an RBI single to Brendan Rodgers, and an RBI double to Colorado catcher Tony Wolters, or possibly a forgotten member of the Big Red Machine. It was now 5-3.
Things slowed down in the fifth and sixth. Replacing Means in the sixth, Brandon Kline was a definite highlight of the day, striking out the side like a beast.
The O’s got one more in the seventh, as a pinch-hitting Renato Núñez took a diving Jairo Díaz slider deep. It wasn’t a cheapie. 6-3.
Too bad Kline wasn’t given a second inning. In the seventh a tentative Richard Bleier got two outs, gave up a single and then got pulled for Shawn Armstrong. Stop me if you’ve seen this one already? It wasn’t good. The homer bug bit again, on consecutive Armstrong pitches to Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado. Observed Gary Thorne, “You gotta get Anderson outta there. This is now just batting practice for Colorado.” Eh, you know what he means.
Could the O’s retake the lead? Facing Colorado middle reliever Bryan Shaw and his diving split-change in the eighth, Broxton and Alberto got aboard with opposite-way two-out singles, but Pedro Severino couldn’t score them.
In the ninth, Brandon Hyde went to Givens … because who else is he going to put in at this point, Castro? The leadoff man, Ryan McMahon, singled. Strikeout. Then ... Trevor Story two-run walkoff home run. Rockies jubilation. Game over.
In fairness, it wasn’t a bad pitch. But who cares? Story’s shot made four home runs allowed by the Orioles staff today; 111 on the season; three late-innings meltdowns this week, and a seven-game losing streak.
Seriously, what are we going to do with this bullpen?