The early lead was gone, but there was a clear path to staying in the game in front of the Orioles Sunday afternoon. All Baltimore had to do was make the fundamental plays, make the smart plays, and the O’s would have all the opportunities they’d need to score a win over the Giants, and a win in their series.
Well, as this Orioles team is reminding its fans on a daily basis, that’s not so simple a task. And it wasn’t on Sunday, either.
Mental and physical errors doomed what had been a solid outing from Gabriel Ynoa and sent the Orioles to an 8-1 loss to the Giants.
The mess started in the fourth, after Evan Longoria slammed a home run to left to tie the game at 1. Brandon Belt drew a two-out walk, and with Kevin Pillar at the plate, took off for second with Ynoa still holding the ball on the mound.
Whether Belt was trying to fluster Ynoa or whether he mistimed when Ynoa would start his motion is unclear. Whatever Belt’s idea was, however, it worked. Ynoa tried to wheel and throw to second but called for a balk instead, allowing Belt to take the base.
The miscue hurt the Orioles immediately. Pillar hit a cue shot down the first base line for a double, allowing Belt to score and give the Giants the lead. Belt would have likely only been able to take third without the balk, and Brandon Crawford’s flyout in the next at-bat would have ended the inning with the score still tied.
In the fifth, Oriole mistakes popped up again. Stephen Vogt walked and Steven Duggar hit a routine ground ball to second base. Stevie Wilkerson, however, appeared to rush the play to try to get two, and muffed the hop to allow both runners to reach. Joe Panik flew to right, but DJ Stewart threw to third over the cutoff man, and Duggar took advantage of the poor decision to go to second. Longoria two batters later roped a double into the left-center field gap, bringing in Vogt and Duggar and making it 4-1.
So, to recap, what should have been a double play and a harmless flyout became two runs and a 4-1 lead that felt like a canyon to climb out of. It’s also been a continuation of a troubling theme for the Orioles, who have time and again seen blunders both physical and mental derail their chances at elusive wins.
The inning was Ynoa’s last, and the Baltimore relievers couldn’t stop the bleeding from the cuts the Orioles gave themselves. Crawford homered to left-center field off of Branden Kline to make it 5-1 in the sixth, Pablo Sandoval brought Mike Yastrzemski in with a sacrifice fly off of Dan Straily to make it 6-1 in the seventh, and Crawford’s second homer and an RBI single by Panik, also off Straily, made it 8-1 in the eighth.
The game looked nothing like the first inning implied it would. Giants starter Jeff Samardzija was coming off of a bad May, and his first June outing looked like more of the same when Trey Mancini went with a fastball that tailed in from the outer part of the plate and lined it over the right-center field wall for a home run.
Renato Nunez two batters later drilled a double to left center that hit the base of the wall, and though Stewart struck out to strand him, all indications were that the O’s were going to have plenty of chances to get to the long-haired righty.
Instead, it was their last real chance to land a blow against him. Samardzija retired the next 11 batters and 15 of the next 16, allowing only an infield single to Pedro Severino and no further runs.
It made for a tough opponent for Ynoa to try to outduel, and at first, the converted reliever looked up to the task. Ynoa put up 1-2-3 innings in the first two frames, then navigated around a Vogt double in the third to keep the Giants scoreless.
The Giants began to figure him out in their second time through the lineup, however, starting when Longoria blasted the no-doubter to left to tie the score at 1 in the fourth. The game soon spiraled out of control, and though Ynoa had a hand in the unraveling with the balk, his defense did him no favors - and his bullpen did him even fewer.
The result was a loss that has a double-whammy feeling to it. It’s bad enough that the Orioles dropped a game and a series against a team that is also having a tough season, and a team they can expect to beat. Those types of teams and these types of opportunities won’t come around often.
It’s also disappointing because the road from here doesn’t get easier. The Orioles face a winning team in Texas next, then one of the best teams in baseball in Houston. The odds won’t be good, and it’ll be interesting to see how the Orioles handle the challenge.