If the Orioles had sat down before Saturday’s game against the Tigers and tried to sketch out the dumbest possible way to lose their 100th game of the 2019 season, they could not have plotted an outcome that could have led to any greater soul-piercing agony for whatever O’s fan was foolish enough to get invested in the possibility of a victory. The 12-inning, 8-4 loss to the Tigers was absolutely a fitting way for this team to hit the century mark in the loss column.
As with any game, a number of things could have gone differently that might have led to the Orioles winning the game instead of losing it, but when you get down to it, one guy blew it more than most. That turned out to be reliever Ryan Eades, who you might have forgotten was on the team since this was only his third time pitching since joining the Orioles on August 24.
This elusive fellow was the one summoned into a bases-loaded, 12th inning situation, needing two outs to preserve what was at that moment a 4-3 Orioles lead. Eades had the opportunity to collect his first ever MLB save. He instead walked Brandon Dixon, 0-5 in the game up to that point, on four straight pitches to force in the game-tying run.
Eades put to rest the question of whether he would be a party to a shrimp (that is, a walkoff walk) by instead giving up a walkoff grand slam to the Tigers’ John Hicks. A true fact about John Hicks is that he entered this game with a .612 OPS in 309 plate appearances. Even on the Tigers, whose roster consists of jabronis as far as the eye can see, Hicks stands out as a jabroni among jabronis... and that’s who beat the Orioles.
There’s plenty of blame to be assigned elsewhere. Blame Paul Fry for ending up in a situation with men on second and third and one out in the 12th, leading manager Brandon Hyde to issue an intentional walk to set up a force at home and bring in Eades besides. It’s Fry who takes the loss due to baseball’s scoring rules, though he’s not the one who gave up the walkoff.
Blame Mychal Givens for blowing the save to send the game into extra innings by giving up a two-out, game-tying home run to freaking Victor Reyes, a player who woke up on Saturday with one home run in 226 MLB plate appearances this season. This is the year of the home run and Reyes had almost no part of it, and that’s who got to the O’s closer to blow his seventh save of the season.
It was a stupid loss to stand out from the pack in a season full of them. It should have been a nice win to help stave off the 100-loss mark, and that’s what makes it all the more frustrating. After trailing for most of the game, the O’s stormed back in one swing in the seventh inning when Trey Mancini connected for his 32nd home run of the season, scoring the two men on and giving the O’s the 3-2 lead that lasted until Givens was 2019 Givens.
The Orioles took the lead in the 12th, too, making what came in the bottom of the inning hurt even more. Patience by the bottom of the lineup was rewarded, with Mason Williams and Chance Sisco each drawing a walk with two outs, and Rio Ruiz driving in Williams with what was at that moment a go-ahead single.
It’s not like the loss is surprising, even against the team with the worst record in baseball. There are a lot of guys in the Orioles bullpen and none of us should trust any of them to hold any narrow lead. As it ended up, six O’s relievers did have scoreless outings in the game. Hyde’s choices remaining at this point were, if we assume Hunter Harvey was unavailable after pitching last night, the just-recalled Tayler Scott, Evan Phillips, and Eades. Those are not good choices. But it still sucks that it ended up this way.
The Orioles needed to use so many relievers in the game because their starting pitcher, Gabriel Ynoa, failed to record an out in the fifth inning. The best you can say about his outing is that it could have been worse. Two runs in four-plus innings isn’t so bad, especially by O’s standards, but there’s nothing good about giving up seven hits and a walk while getting 12 outs. There is also nothing good about a starter getting one strikeout against the team whose offense leads MLB in strikeouts.
At other times in the game it was the Orioles doing stupid things on the bases. Renato Nunez had a two-hit game, and in one of those hits he was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double. Austin Hays also had a two-hit game, and in one of those hits he was thrown out trying to stretch a double into a triple. So the Orioles had 10 hits in 12 innings and only eight of them actually resulted in someone reaching base. They are bad at so many things.
Bad as the Orioles are, they remain 3.5 games better than the Tigers in the standings even after this loss. Unless they lose the last two games in this series, there will not be back-to-back #1 draft picks in this phase of the rebuilding effort. That’s a tough lead to overcome with 14 games to play. Though if anyone can do it, surely these guys can. They don’t want to lose. They’re just bad at baseball.
The series resumes on Sunday afternoon at 1:10 Eastern. Asher Wojciechowski and Edwin Jackson are the two scheduled starting pitchers as these titans of the cellar of MLB battle again to show their true lack of quality.