Even going into Wednesday, 102 losses into the season, there were boxes in the “Ways to lose” list we hadn’t seen these Orioles yet check off.
Well, one of those ways became Loss No. 103.
The Orioles were cruising, comfortably ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays through eight-and-a-half innings. And then Miguel Castro, picking an awful time to look like he did in the first two months of the season, gave up a go-ahead Randal Grichuk grand slam en route to a six-run ninth that sent the Orioles down to Toronto, 11-10.
It was a stunning, shocking collapse. And at the same time, oh so predictable.
After all, these are the 2019 Orioles, and victory is never assured. Not even when the lead is 9-5 with one out in the ninth. There’s still time for everything to go wrong.
Wednesday was another example, perhaps the most dumbfounding one yet. And a seemingly rehabilitated reliever was right in the middle.
Castro, who had an 8.59 ERA for the month of April and a 6.84 mark over the first two months, had turned into one of the team’s most dependable arms. His ERA over August and September was 1.89. It was zero - ZERO! - through seven September appearances. And he had a .048 batting average against in those seven games. So it makes sense that, with the Orioles needing to close out a 9-5 win, he was Brandon Hyde’s man.
Welp, so much for those numbers. Poof. Gone.
I suppose you’ll want to know those details. Rowdy Tellez drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch. No problem. Richard Urena dropped a single to center. Okay, fine. Billy McKinney walked on four pitches, and after Bo Bichette struck out, Cavan Biggio singled to right to score Tellez. Concern rising.
Up came Grichuk, and up went the count, to 3-1. Castro’s pitch tailed in to the inside third of the plate. Grichuk didn’t miss it. Gone, way gone, to left field. Jays ahead, 10-9.
I’m serious. And after all of that, the Jays did some more damage, making it 11-9 when Vladimir Guerrero Jr. reached on a two-base error and Reese McGuire doubled in pinch-runner Jonathan Davis.
That run ended up being huge. Austin Hays (3-for-5) led off the bottom of the ninth with a bunt single, pinch-hitter Mark Trumbo drew a walk, and after Pedro Severino flew to the warning track in left field (mere feet away from landing in the stands for a walk-off home run), D.J. Stewart (3-for-4) ripped a ball off the right field wall for a double, scoring Hays and sending pinch-runner Hanser Alberto to third.
It was as close as the O’s got. The table was set for a comeback win but Baltimore never got the last hit it needed, as Jonathan Villar (3-for-6) flew to shallow left and Trey Mancini grounded to second to end the threat and the game.
So that was the ninth. Which was too bad, because the first eight innings were all Orioles.
The O’s bats were hot from the first inning, as Villar was robbed of a home run leading off the frame and Anthony Santander (line drive to right), Rio Ruiz (double into the left-center field gap) and Hays (down the third-base line) hit consecutive doubles to make it 2-0 Birds.
Toronto inched closer on a Bo Bichette single in the second, but the Orioles picked up where they left off in the bottom half. Stewart singled with one out and then went to third on Villar’s single to left one out later. Mancini then drilled a Clay Buchholz pitch into the right-field corner for his 34th double of the season, scoring both Stewart and Villar for a 4-1 advantage.
It went to 7-1 as the Orioles got homer-happy in the fourth. Villar smoked a pitch to right field for the home run he was denied in the first inning, and Mancini followed by lacing a single to left. Buchholz then hung a changeup to Santander, and the outfielder responded by crushing it 418 feet to right field for a 7-1 lead.
Game over, right?
After both teams threatened in the fifth (Dylan Bundy got out of a second-and-third jam, while Thomas Pannone fanned Villar to leave the bases loaded for the O’s), Toronto moved closer in the seventh. Shawn Armstrong, pitching like he owed the Jays a favor, gave up a single to Guerrero (which, granted, was misplayed by Hays) and a walk to McGuire before tossing a meatball to Teoscar Hernandez that he deposited into the Orioles bullpen to make it 7-5.
Still, even after Toronto continued threatening, it wasn’t too bad since Paul Fry got Biggio to fly out to center. And then it really seemed fine, since Stewart knocked in Hays (who had reached on an error) with a sacrifice fly in the seventh and Mancini scored Villar (who had doubled to right) with another sac fly in the eighth.
Now the score was 9-5, and all the Orioles had to do was get three outs before they gave up four runs.
Game over, right?