The Orioles kicked off their penultimate series of 2020 with a back and forth game with the Blue Jays that went 15 innings and saw ten home runs and, ultimately, an 11-10 loss for the Orioles. As a longtime Orioles fan, I have grown accustomed to every sort of loss. I think we all have. I expect many of you have also grown numb at all this losing. That’s how I often feel.
But tonight, it was frustrating to watch the Orioles fight early in this game to come back just to blow a lead not once, not twice, but three times. They stormed back from an early 5-0 hole to take a 7-6 lead only to see Paul Fry give up a game-tying home run in the seventh inning. They tacked on two runs in the eighth to take a 9-7 lead, but Shawn Armstrong couldn’t hold it. He gave up two runs in the bottom of the ninth to send the game to extra innings.
In the 12th inning, something really crazy happened. Chris Davis homered for the second game in a row. I know! The dinger gave the Orioles a 10-9 lead, but once again they blew it. In the bottom of the inning, Rio Ruiz made a throwing error on a ball that Chris Davis probably should have caught or at least stopped. That runner came around to score, tying the game once again.
And finally, the Orioles had no more comebacks in them. In the bottom of the 15th inning, Ryan Eades began his third inning of work. He got the first two outs, and just as I thought we might see 16 innings or more, the game was over. Anthony Alford, who entered the game as a pinch runner and still managed to get three at bats, hit a walk-off bomb to left field to send the few Blue Jays fans remaining home happy.
With 106 losses in the books, the most we can do as on most nights Orioles fans is look for glimmers of hope, some good performance to hold onto. And in tonight’s game, that glimmer was Austin Hays. Hays has been a breath of fresh air this September. He wasn’t expected to be called up this year, and he has really made the most of it.
Hays has played with excitement and smiles in every game since his call up, and why not? He thought he was going to the Arizona Fall League, not the majors. It turns out that Hays is the center fielder we had been missing all year, even if we didn’t know it.
Hays tonight made multiple great plays in the outfield, including throwing out Vlad Guererro trying to stretch a single to a double. He hit two home runs as part of a three-hit night. He knocked in five runs and for good measure, he stole a base.
Unfortunately, by the time the extra innings rolled around, Hays was out of magic. He struck out three times after the ninth inning. By the time the game ended, his heroics were buried in the rubble of another Orioles’ disaster. But it was still very fun to watch at the time.
Watching two bad teams play baseball for over five hours just to see your team lose isn’t fun at all, but getting to watch Austin Hays almost made up for it.
No one will remember it, but the starting pitching in tonight’s game was not good. For the Orioles, it was Chandler Shepherd making his second start of the season. And for the Blue Jays, it was Clay Buchholz, who has been pretty bad at baseball for awhile.
But before we get to how the Orioles manhandled Buchholz, let’s start with the poor start made by Shepherd. Shepherd gave up three runs in the bottom of the first inning before recording a single out. A single and a walk set the table for Randal Grichuk, who came into the game with 30 home runs on the year (six against the Orioles). Grichuk wasted no time hitting home run number 31, which gave the Jays a 3-0 lead.
Shepherd got the next three batters out to end the inning. Sometimes a pitcher just has a rough first inning, you know? And then he comes back out for the second looking like a completely different pitcher. That seems to happen against the Orioles a lot. Maybe Shepherd will be the same!
No, he was not. The Blue Jays started off the bottom of the second inning with back-to-back dingers that put the Orioles in a 5-0 hole. For good measure, Shepherd started off the third inning by plunking Grichuk, who then came around to score on a single from Rowdy Tellez. Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, Shepherd came out of the game after just three innings. He gave up six runs, which raised his respectable-ish 4.91 ERA to an unsightly 7.71.
I’m not one to judge, but perhaps baseball isn’t the best fit for Chandler Shepherd. Maybe he’d do better in a different profession. Like, maybe he’d be a good transpondster.
So the Orioles found themselves in an early hole, but the bats were ready to climb out. With two outs in the third inning, a pitch just barely grazed Chance Sisco to keep the inning alive. After a Jonathan Villar single, Hays got the Orioles on the board with his third home run of the season.
That got the Orioles back in the game, and two innings later they came all the way back and then some. Villar and Hays greeted Buchholz with back-to-back homers of their own in the fifth. Trey Mancini walked to force Buchholz out of the game, but the relief pitcher picked up where Buchholz left off.
With the O’s down by one run, Rio Ruiz got in on the homering action with his 12th of the season. Just like that, the Orioles had come all the way back! If only it could have lasted.
Evan Phillips (2 IP) and Miguel Castro (1 IP) did a good job keeping the Blue Jays off the board after Shepherd exited the game, and both were helped out by that Austin Hays defense. Hays went deep and made a leaping catch at the wall in the fourth inning with Phillips on the mound. In the sixth inning, he came in shallow to make a good catch to end the inning.
It was then that the fun ended. Paul Fry came in to protect a one-run lead and instead gave up a home run to Cavan Biggio. That tied the game at 7-7, which was just the start of the shenanigans on the night. Twice more the Orioles would come back and twice more they blew their lead until finally, mercifully, it was over.