First, the Orioles didn’t make the play. Then they didn’t get the hit.
Either one might have prevented Baltimore from a 3-2 loss to the Athletics Monday night, a defeat that kicked off a six-game swing through first Oakland and then Seattle.
This wasn’t the sort of mind-numbing loss that gets Orioles fans reaching for things to punch or throw against the wall - like, say, each of the losses in the previous series against the Red Sox. This was a tight game against a respectable team, and one that just happened to not go their way.
But, in typical Orioles fashion, it’s easy to see how it could have. Baltimore, after all, was ahead 2-1 in the third inning when, after the A’s had given them the lead with some mental cramps of their own, the Orioles decided to return the favor. Andrew Cashner hit Josh Phegley and walked Marcus Semien leading off the inning, and Matt Chapman hit a textbook Baltimore chop to third for a single that loaded the bases with no outs.
Cashner needed a ground ball, and he got one from Matt Olson to Rio Ruiz at third - and here’s where things got screwy. Ruiz made a fine snag and throw to catcher Chance Sisco for the lead out, but Sisco, trying to pivot and complete the double play at first, made a poor throw that bounced and skipped by Chris Davis. Semien scored, but the damage appeared limited when Davis made a perfect throw home to get Chapman for the second out to keep things tied at 2.
A review, however, was enough to convince umpires that Chapman got under Sisco’s tag, meaning two runs scored on the play and the score was now 3-2 Oakland. The reversal was the game - neither team scored after that play.
The sequence that gave the A’s the lead was oddly similar in its folly to one that gave the Orioles their only advantage. In the second, with the O’s down 1-0, Pedro Severino led off with a single to left, and Ruiz followed with a perfect bunt down the third base line.
The A’s were caught off-guard, but Chapman nonetheless tried to pick up the ball and sling an off-balance throw to first, which got by Olson and rolled into Oakland’s 916 square miles of foul ground. Severino scored easily, and Ruiz went all the way to third. One batter later, Hanser Alberto bunted to the pitcher, scoring Ruiz in what goes in the box score as a sacrifice, but should have been a single given clear interference when Olson prevented Alberto from running through the base while catching the throw.
The missed call was made moot, however, first by two ensuing flyouts that ended the inning, and then by the Orioles’ inability to mount any further threats against both starter Mike Fiers and the Athletics bullpen. After the Alberto bunt, Fiers retired the next 16 Oriole hitters, and didn’t give up another hit until the seventh.
In that seventh inning, the Orioles had their best chance after falling behind to get back in front. Ruiz drew a two-out walk, and Alberto followed with a single to center that chased Fiers from the game. Liam Hendriks proved no easier on Baltimore batters, however. He fanned Davis to end the inning, and pitched a clean eighth inning to protect the lead.
Blake Treinen nailed the door shut in the ninth, putting the Orioles down for the Athletics’ sixth 1-2-3 inning of the night.
It was a frustrating loss, but it was surely hardest for Cashner, who got a loss even while pitching six innings and allowing four hits and only one earned run while striking out two. Cashner, who missed a start Friday with a blister, looked sharp for much of the night, and bounced back from a draining 28-pitch first inning that saw Oakland go up 1-0 on an Olson double that scored Semien.
After that, Cashner rolled, getting his own streak of 11 retired Athletics in a row going before Ramon Laureano ended the run with a double in the sixth. The Orioles bullpen followed Cashner’s lead, with Jimmy Yacabonis pitching two shutout innings.
On one hand, it was good to see the Orioles play a competitive game after such a demoralizing series, and a crushing Sunday in particular. It was, however, another instance in which the Orioles put themselves in a hole by not making a routine play, and by saving their mistakes for the worst moments. This time, even at only one run, the hole was too deep to climb out of.