Hopefully you didn’t tune in late tonight. Because if so, you might have missed the precious few minutes this one was close.
So, yeah. For 17 of the 18 half-innings played, the Orioles actually beat the Rays 1-0 tonight. Depending on how optimistic you are, you could look at it that way.
That one exception, however, told the story. In that top of the second inning, Tampa Bay sent up 11 hitters, collected six hits, and of course scored the seven runs.
And yet, throughout the inning it felt like starting pitcher Ty Blach and the Orioles were inches away from getting out of it. Jesus Aguilar led off with a walk, and after Blach struck out Thursday night hero Willy Adames, Mike Brosseau smacked a single to right to push Aguilar to second.
Kevin Kiermaier was up next, and hit a soft grounder down the third base line that trickled past a diving Rio Ruiz, allowing Aguilar to score, Brosseau to take third and Kiermaier to scoot into second with a double.
Blach then struck out Guillermo Heredia but missed a golden chance to limit the damage with No. 9 hitter Mike Zunino, a .170 hitter entering today, at the plate. Zunino went the other way on a Blach offering for a single, scoring both Brosseau and Kiermaier and making the score 3-0.
Even then, the inning wasn’t devastating, and the Orioles again had a chance to escape with their backs intact when, after a Matt Duffy walk, Tommy Pham hit a grounder that second baseman Hanser Alberto dove for and stopped.
The problem was that Alberto lost the ball on the transfer, turning an impressive inning-ending play into an infield single that loaded the bases. Three pitches later, Meadows blasted Blach’s 2-0 pitch 438 feet to center field for a grand slam, and the score was now 7-0 and the Orioles’ backs were indeed broken.
A 7-0 deficit would be formidable enough for any team, but for the Orioles tonight, it was an inescapable pit. Baltimore batters had little answer for Tampa Bay pitchers, specifically starter Trevor Richards, who came in struggling over the course of the second half of the season, but who went six strong innings today while allowing only two hits, walking one and striking out five.
One night after going 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position, the Orioles went 0-for-5 tonight. The lone run came in the eighth when Jonathan Villar turned on a pitch from Aaron Slegers and hit it over the center field wall for his 18th home run.
Even in so nondescript a game, there were some highlights. One was Dillon Tate, who pitched three scoreless innings in relief of Blach and who allowed two hits while fanning two and walking one.
Tate’s strikeouts were pretty, as he punched out Heredia on a tight slider in the sixth and then whiffed Adames swinging at a breaking ball that dove out of the zone in the seventh. Considering that Tate is a decent prospect (No. 27) with the team and that he had just gotten the promotion from Triple-A Norfolk earlier in the day, it could only have helped his confidence to pitch like a reliever that belongs at the major league level. He looked good.
Another was D.J. Stewart, who looked overwhelmed during his first call-up to the majors but who has seemed comfortable at the plate as of late. He went 2-for-4 with hits to both sides of the field, a double down the third base line in the fourth (one that ended a string of 10 straight retired batters for Richards) and a roped single to right in the seventh. He’s still hitting only .231 in Baltimore, but a five-game hit streak suggests he’s getting the hang of it.
Aside from that...yeesh. Good luck finding something positive. I guess you could argue those all-black uniforms were alright.