The Orioles lost to the Blue Jays tonight in an unbelievably frustrating way. After blowing an early lead, they crawled all the way back only to lose in part due to errors, both physical and mental. The 8-7 loss in 10 innings stretches their losing streak to three games and puts them at just one game above .500 (12-11). Is the magic over?
The Blue Jays sent rookie Nate Pearson to the mound tonight. It’s easy to see why he has been so highly regarded, but he is definitely still learning. He struggled with his control, but his fastball hit the high 90s and his pitches have crazy movement on them. Said crazy movement on this pitches actually led to a lot of balls out of the strike zone, resulting in a high pitch count, but it was still quite impressive. As soon as he puts it all together, Pearson is going to annoy the Orioles for years.
The Orioles greeted Pearson rudely in the very first inning. After Chance Sisco walked, rising star Anthony Santander launched a ball right field where it bounced off of the awning of a beer stand on the flag court. It was the second time this home stand that Santander has hit the orange awning. If there actually was a beer guy working in there he would have been in for a shock.
Santander struck again in the third inning. After Wade LeBlanc gave up a game-tying home run to Oriole killer Randal Grichuk in the top half of the inning, Santander hit a line drive to center field that just kept going until it landed in the bullpen to give the Orioles a 3-2 lead. It was Santander’s 9th home run of the year, putting him in 2nd in the American League (Mike Trout has 10).
LeBlanc has been the most disappointing member of the starting rotation this year, and that continued tonight. He went into the fifth inning with a one-run lead and couldn’t get anyone one. He gave up back-to-back singles and a walk to load the bases and Brandon Hyde had seen enough. He called on Travis Lakins to take over.
Coming into a game with the bases loaded and no outs is a really tough task, and it was one Lakins wasn’t up to. The first batter he faced was Grichuk. This time he “only” hit a double, knocking in two runs and giving the Blue Jays a 4-3 lead.
That brought Travis Shaw to the plate for a battle of the Travises. Blue Jay Travis won easily, mashing a three-run homer to center field to give the Jays a 7-3 lead. It felt, for a moment, like the Orioles were totally cooked. Lakins was pulled from the game after getting two outs but also putting two more runners on. Shawn Armstrong was able to get the final out.
Armed with a four-run lead, all Nate Pearson had to do to earn his first major league win was get three outs in the fifth inning. He was not able to do it. He walked Andrew Velazquez, his third walk of the night. That set the table for leadoff batter and DH Chance Sisco, who made the most of his chance.
On a 2-2 count, Pearson threw a slider that Sisco crushed to right field. It left the yard a 103.6 miles per hour. That was the end of Pearson’s night. He’ll have to try again another night.
It wasn’t the end of the scoring, though. The first batter to face relief pitcher Shun Yamaguchi was Santander, and I won’t lie. Part of me thought he might hit another a home run. Alas, he grounded out. But Rio Ruiz did much better. He lined a double to left field, but got a little lucky. Lourdes Gurriel fired a throw to second that looked like it might nab Rio. But the ball skipped past the base and allowed Rio to get to third.
With Ruiz on third, Renato Núñez lifted what looked like an easy sac fly to deep left field. And Rio did score! But Gurriel let loose with throw that actually beat Ruiz to the plate. The catcher made a poor play of it to allow Ruiz to slide in safely. That made the score 7-6, Blue Jays, with four innings to play.
The score would hold until the seventh inning. In the top of the inning, Travis Shaw got a hit to right field and tried to stretch it to a double, But Santander was having none of that and fired to second base to nail him for the first out. Then, in the bottom of the inning, the Orioles struck. And all with two outs!
Santander and Ruiz were retired quickly to start the half-inning, then Núñez hit a ground ball that couldn’t be handled by shortstop Santiago Espinel. It was ruled a single and Pedro Severino followed with a double. The Blue Jays opted to intentionally walk Dwight Smith to load the bases for pinch hitter Hanser Alberto (hitting for Pat Valaika).
What the Orioles really needed from Hanser was a solid single or double to the outfield, but what they got wasn’t terrible. Alberto hit a hot shot to third base that Shaw made a very nice play on. But Vlad Guerrero Jr. couldn’t handle the throw at first base and everyone was safe, tying the game 7-7.
Two more scoreless innings took us to extras, which is where things went downhill. Cole Sulser had pitched the ninth inning and came back out for the 10th, this time with the ghost runner at second base. Sulser walked Vlad Jr., then both runners moved up on a sac bunt. The Orioles brought the infield in to try and cut down a run at the plate.
Gurriel hit a sharp ground ball to Chris Davis at first base, who was in as a defensive replacement. Davis threw to the plate but the Severino couldn’t handle it and the run scored. It wasn’t a perfect throw from Davis, but he made it from his backside on the ground and it looked like Severino should have been able to handle it. The error was charged to Davis.
After the run came in, Tanner Scott replaced Sulser and struck out consecutive batters to end the inning. But the damage was done. The Orioles tried to make some noise in the bottom half of the inning but shot themselves in the foot. Alberto started the inning with the ugliest strikeout you’ll ever see. He has really lost his way of late.
With one out, Mullins had a great at-bat and singled back up the middle. Smith, the ghost runner on 2nd, went too far around third base and got thrown out in a run down. It was a boneheaded play that absolutely shouldn’t have happened. He never even looked at the third base coach, who was telling him to stop.
Instead of runners on first and third with one out, the Orioles found themselves with a runner on second and two outs. Pinch hitter Bryan Holaday popped out to end the game.
Well, it was an exciting game but a disappointing game. It was a game the Orioles didn’t have to lose. Tomorrow at 1 p.m. these teams meet for the series finale where the Orioles will try to avoid the sweep.