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Desperate defensive alignment costs Orioles in 4-3 loss to Rangers

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The Orioles were forced, due to injuries, to roll the dice on Chris Davis in right field. The game’s crucial play hinged on that desperation.

Baltimore Orioles v Texas Rangers
Dwight Smith Jr. joined the list of injured Orioles in Thursday’s game.
Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images

The Orioles still have a Chris Davis problem. There are days where there is no fresh reminder of this fact. Thursday night against the Rangers was not one of those times, with Davis in the middle of a crucial play where he made the negative impact that dealt the biggest blow to the O’s chances of winning the game. In the aftermath, they dropped the series finale to the Rangers, 4-3.

In the fifth inning, with the scored tied 2-2, the Rangers had a man on first with one out for Delino DeShields. They executed a textbook hit-and-run play, with the runner, Isiah Kiner-Falefa, causing second baseman Hanser Alberto to vacate his position, where DeShields was able to ground the ball into right field.

Davis, playing right field in the game, overran the ball as he charged in to try to get to the ball and stop the runner from going to third base. All he had to do was pick up the ball on the way past him and he whiffed. Kiner-Falefa scored easily, putting the Rangers ahead by a run. DeShields ended up on third base after this error. The very next batter, Danny Santana, hit a sacrifice fly with the man on third to score a fourth Rangers run.

At the exact moment that the error happened, Davis was in the middle of an 0-18 hitless streak. In fairness to Davis, he snapped out of that streak in the very next half-inning, slicing an opposite field double to score Alberto, who had reached with an infield single. It doesn’t make me feel much less grumpy about the error, or about his batting .164/.245/.307 for the season.

It’s not Davis’s fault that he was playing right field in this game. Only desperation drove him out there in the first place, with Pedro Severino and Jonathan Villar too hurt to play and Trey Mancini’s foot sore enough to limit him to designated hitter for the game.

Having Davis out there is not Plan A, or Plan B, or even necessarily Plan C. But he was out there, and he did make the error in a spectacular “Yep, this is the 2019 Orioles” level of failure, and the Orioles lost.

In the long run for the Orioles franchise, looking at the big picture, it’s not bad to lose games like this one. The 2019 season never mattered anyway, but a better prospect in next year’s draft might. I know this, though it’s little consolation when I am in the middle of watching another stupid game that is lost for a frustrating reason.

The crucial Davis error served to spoil what was a decent start from the struggling David Hess. With one run unearned as a result of that play, Hess allowed three earned runs on eight hits and a walk in six innings, notching two strikeouts. He gave up only one home run, a second inning solo shot hit by Hunter Pence, who I had forgotten was on the Rangers even though he started both of the other games of this series.

The loss drops Hess to 1-8. He hasn’t been the winning pitcher since the game where he was lifted in the middle of a no-hitter. Some games he has pitched quite poorly and has deserved to take a loss. This was not one of those games. As the kids say, it be like that sometimes.

The Orioles actually led this game at one time. They got on the board in the top of the first when Trey Mancini hit a solo home run, his 13th dinger of the season, to put the O’s up 1-0. Mancini was 3-4 in the game. Unfortunately, the rest of the team combined for just five hits. It’s tough to string together offense like that.

Pence’s second inning home run tied the game. Hess continued to limp through the inning, eventually allowing another run when Ronald Guzman drove in Asdrubal Cabrera with a double. He settled down and got out of it without further damage, keeping the Rangers off the board until his first baseman in right field messed up what probably should have been a routine play even for a first baseman in right field.

The O’s evened up the score themselves in the top of the fifth. Catcher Chance Sisco led off the inning with a double and was sacrificed over to third by Richie Martin. He scored on a Stevie Wilkerson single. Mancini delivered another hit to advance Wilkerson to third and keep the rally going, but Dwight Smith Jr. grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Smith joined the parade of ailing Orioles in the game. He had crashed hard into the left field fence while making a catch to end the fourth inning, appearing to not realize how close to the fence he was, and was down on the field for a minute before coming back to the dugout.

After Smith hit into the double play, he came out of the game, with Wilkerson shifting to left field and Keon Broxton entering in center. Manager Brandon Hyde indicated to Orioles reporters post-game that Smith is in the concussion protocol, and will be remaining behind in Dallas to get X-rays done on his shoulder. Don’t be surprised by another roster move tomorrow before the Houston series begins.

Hess’s home run to Pence was the only one allowed by an Orioles pitcher in the game. That leaves Hess, with 20 home runs allowed, as the MLB leader in that category. For the O’s as a team, they’ve served up 124 taters in 62 games, a full season pace of exactly 324 homers. If they limit themselves to a home run per game from here on out, they could yet avoid setting the record. I know, it’s a big if.

The Orioles continue to be tied with the Royals for the worst record in MLB. They lost to the Red Sox on Thursday.

Things get no easier for the Orioles now. They head to face the 43-21 Astros for a three-game set over the weekend. The good news is that Justin Verlander pitched today and so won’t be starting against the O’s. Gabriel Ynoa and Gerrit Cole are scheduled to start the 8:10 Friday opener.