The Orioles have lost another baseball game. The 2019 season has gone on for long enough that there is nothing surprising about this outcome whatsoever. They are not good and they do not have good players, so when they play good teams with good players, a loss is expected and often what happens. There are always specific reasons, but mostly it’s that. On Labor Day afternoon, they lost to the Rays, 5-4 in 10 innings, mostly because they aren’t as good as the Rays.
Extra innings are seldom a good thing for the Orioles this year. Their bullpen has been extremely bad and there is not a single pitcher who’s spent a significant time out there on whom the team can really count when it matters. This will, we can hope, be addressed over the next couple of years. For now, the losses are what will happen, much more often than not.
In the tenth inning, looking to extend the game, the O’s called upon Dillon Tate. Maybe you like Tate, who the O’s picked up in the Zack Britton trade last year. His limited big league experience, before today, was giving up seven runs in 10.2 innings. Tate got one out, then walked the Rays #1 hitter, Joey Wendle. A slow-roller by Austin Meadows, which might, in a different defensive alignment, have been a double play ball, moved up Wendle into scoring position but got the second out.
This brought up the Rays #3 batter, Tommy Pham, with first base open. A notable fact about the Rays lineup in the game is that their 4-9 hitters did not record any hits. Should Pham have been walked intentionally? It probably doesn’t matter. The O’s took their shot with a righty-righty matchup between Tate and Pham rather than bringing up Ji-Man Choi.
Pham looked at three straight pitches, two balls and a strike, before ripping a curveball that was out over the plate into left field. The ball, which Statcast clocked at 105.6mph off the bat, was scorched. Third baseman Rio Ruiz deflected it on the way by, which was probably a worse outcome for the Orioles as it meant the ball didn’t go right to left fielder DJ Stewart. Wendle beat the throw home for the walkoff.
A better pitcher might not have walked Pham. A better third baseman might have fielded the ball, or at least kept it from going into the outfield. A better left fielder might have had the arm strength to throw out the runner. The Orioles do not have those better players. So they lost.
It’s a shame the Orioles lost, because they gamely came back from a 4-0 deficit in this one. Their starting pitcher, Asher Wojciechowski, had the kind of line that, given what we’ve seen from O’s starters over the last four seasons, you’d take every time: 7 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
It’s not good, of course, but it’s not embarrassing. The Rays were lucky to cluster together the few hits they got in a way to get the four runs off of Wojciechowski, especially given the lower part of their lineup’s total 0-for. Meadows collected a two-run homer in the third inning and Pham doubled in two more in the fifth.
All that the early runs did was set up an opportunity for Mark Trumbo to have a triumphant return. That’s right, the veteran is back as of today, activated from the 60-day injured list to sneak into a few games here and there. He’s not expected to play every day, or even most days. He’s not expected to play first base. He’s getting talked about like a guy who’s already basically retired but is getting a last lap around the track out of respect.
Through the game’s first five innings, the Orioles batters did not manage to get multiple runners on in any one inning. That changed in a hurry in the sixth against Rays starter Ryan Yarbrough, who would probably be very confused if he ever attended a pirate-themed fraternity party.
The notorious lefty-masher, Hanser Alberto, got the O’s on the board to lead off the inning with his 11th home run of the season. Following two outs, Renato Nunez picked up a single and Jonathan Villar bunted his way on to set up Trumbo’s chance for heroics, with Trumbo representing the tying run.
Trumbo had been hitless in his first two at-bats on the day. In the second inning, he hit a hard ground ball right at the shortstop, prompting MASN’s Jim Hunter to say what a good sign it was that he made good contact, and also prompting me to roll my eyes. The next time up, he grounded into a double play. That sounds about right, I thought.
In this case, the haters can cool their heels. Trumbo lined a pitch that split the right-center gap and rolled all the way to the wall. Nunez and Villar scored easily to make it a 4-3 game. The O’s dugout, a lot happier than you probably are to see Trumbo back, erupted with glee, and they did so again when catcher Pedro Severino capped off a 13-pitch marathon of an at-bat with an opposite field single that brought Trumbo home.
If there were any questions about how his knee might react, he answered them pretty solidly, at least for one day, with two decent sprints. Trumbo scored the tying run easily on the play. Things were fun at that moment.
Unfortunately, that was about it for the Orioles offense for the day. The next eleven hitters were retired in a row, before Alberto broke things up with a one-out, tenth inning single. Right after the single, Alberto was erased by an inning-ending double play. Then came Tate, and then came the loss column. There’s no partial win for making it close.
The Orioles actually out-hit the Rays in the game by a 10-6 margin, but other than Trumbo and Severino in the sixth inning, the clutch hit eluded them. There’s always tomorrow, when they’ll play a doubleheader against the Rays starting at 3:10. The schedule was altered due to concerns about Hurricane Dorian, allowing the O’s to leave Tampa on Tuesday night rather than on Wednesday.
Ty Blach, who is at this moment not on the MLB roster, is starting the first game, with TBA listed for the second game for the O’s. The Rays are also expected to deploy a patchwork pitching staff for the two games.