The 2019 Orioles aren’t allowed to have nice things.
This could have been it. This could have been the game we’d all be talking about for the rest of the season. The game that injected life back into a moribund franchise. The game that drastically shifted the Orioles’ fortunes for the better. And — of most immediate concern — the game that snapped the Birds’ seemingly endless losing streak in the most dramatic of ways.
The Orioles, left for dead after falling behind 10-3 in the fifth, pulled off an inspiring comeback to nearly shock the Mariners, clawing to within one run and putting the potential go-ahead run on base.
But in the end, the grim reality of the 2019 Orioles reared its ugly head again. For all their incredible late-inning rallying, for all the gutsy scraping and clawing they did to battle back into the game, they came up — as they usually do — just short. And in doing so, they suffered their 10th straight loss, their worst losing streak in nine years.
It’s amazing the game ever got this close, considering the Orioles’ patchwork pitching arrangement. Left scrambling after a recent injury to scheduled starter John Means, and with absolutely no pitching depth in the minors to help them, the Orioles threw up their hands and declared tonight a bullpen game. It wasn’t the first time, and it surely won’t be the last, unfortunately.
The first guy to toe the rubber was the man with three first names, Sean Gilmartin. His 2019 MLB debut was predictably uninspiring. Staked to an immediate 3-0 lead — thanks to four straight hits in the first by the “Killer S’s” (as nobody calls them), Anthony Santander, Dwight Smith Jr., Pedro Severino, and Chance Sisco — Gilmartin coughed up the entire advantage by the second inning. It took him 57 pitches to slog through those two frames, with a Dylan Moore homer and a pair of J.P. Crawford RBI singles knocking in three runs.
The second inning also featured a throwing error by Sisco on a stolen base attempt, with Jonathan Villar making a poor attempt at keeping the ball in front of him. So, you know, the Orioles’ defense was its usual self.
Gilmartin hadn’t thrown more than 48 pitches in any minor league outing this year, but with the Orioles’ bullpen in such disarray, Brandon Hyde pushed him as far as he possibly could. It did not work out. Gilmartin’s 68th and final pitch was parked over the center field wall by Kyle Seager for a two-run homer, giving the Mariners their first lead.
From there, things escalated in a hurry. Branden Kline, fresh up from the minors, demonstrated why he’d been down there in the first place. He surrendered four more baserunners and three runs in the third inning and, still pitching in the fifth, coughed up a Mac Williamson homer to make it a 9-3 game. Kline was replaced by Tanner Scott, a fellow new arrival from the minors, who — you guessed it — also pitched like he still belongs in the minors. Scott faced six batters, walked three of them, and gave up an RBI single.
The Mariners led, 10-3. This game was, by all accounts, completely over. The Orioles’ pitchers weren’t getting anybody out. The Orioles’ bats had gone lifeless, with M’s starter Mike Leake mowing down 10 hitters in a row from the second inning through the fifth. It was shaping up to be another embarrassing loss, and the only question was which position player Hyde would send to the mound to mop up the final inning(s) of this blowout.
And then...something happened.
The Orioles, for two glorious innings, decided they weren’t going down without a fight. If they had to lose, they needed to at least make it respectable. And so they did, coming tantalizingly close to one of the most epic comebacks in recent O’s history.
Leake, who’d been cruising, all at once collapsed in the sixth. You might say...he sprung a Leake. I’ll be here all night, folks! No, really, it’s 1:30 AM and I’m still here. Please send help. Anyway, Villar got the fun started with a leadoff double, and then the Killer S’s (it’s going to catch on, just you wait) struck again. Smith singled home Villar, Severino socked a single, and Sisco’s double scored Smith.
Hanser Alberto followed with a grounder to the hole at short. Crawford took just a bit too long to get rid of the ball, with Alberto beating out his throw for an RBI infield single. Crawford’s misery continued on the next play when he let a potential double-play grounder slip past him into center field, plating another run. Incredibly, the O’s had pulled within 10-7 and brought the potential tying run to the plate.
Seattle manager Scott Servais had a curiously long leash with Leake, but after even Chris Davis smacked a sharp hit to load the bases, enough was enough. Servais went to the bullpen for Cory Gearrin, who retired Stevie Wilkerson on a grounder to first that plated another run and moved the tying run to second. Villar, batting for the second time in the inning, grounded out to end the threat. But what an inning it was.
The O’s kept the pressure on in the seventh inning. Guess who struck again? If you said, “the Killer S’s,” you’re right, and thank you for helping me make that nickname happen. Santander led off with a double, and Smith and Severino singled. The deficit was down to 10-9, and the Birds still had two runners aboard with nobody out.
I’d love to say that the O’s continued raking the ball, and that they tied the game or took the lead and completed the unbelievable come-from-behind victory to snap their losing streak.
But, friends, I can’t tell you that. Because the party abruptly stopped, and the Orioles, as is usually the case, found themselves doing just enough to lose. Austin Adams struck out Sisco and then induced a rally-killing double play from Alberto. The O’s never reached base again. Adams struck out the side in the eighth, and closer Roenis Elias — no relation to Mike — breezed through a perfect ninth inning, striking out two.
And that’s it. Loss number 10. What a deeply unsatisfying ending to a game that could have been so much more.