The 2020 Orioles season has shifted abruptly from winning “those” games to losing “those” games. They found themselves in another one on Wednesday afternoon and it went the way the rest of this series against the Blue Jays has gone, stupidly, frustratingly, and with the Orioles ultimately in the loss column. They dropped the finale to the Jays by a 5-2 score to seal the sweep.
This was one of those games where things get stupid early on and let you know exactly how the game is going to go. In this case, it was the Orioles blowing a ton of scoring chances. They got things started right in the bottom of the first inning. Surprise leadoff hitter Chance Sisco, the first Orioles catcher to lead off since 1985, drew a walk. Following Sisco, Anthony Santander picked up a double to extend his hitting streak right away to 14 straight games.
It was not the kind of double that can score a catcher from first base. What it did do is set up a scoring chance with men on second and third and nobody out. A team needs to cash in on that chance! The Orioles... well, #3 hitter Renato Nunez hit a ground ball right at the Jays third baseman, and Sisco broke home as soon as it was clear the ball was on the ground. The ball beat him by a mile and he was tagged out.
Still, first and second with one out and the #4 and #5 hitters is worth something, right? It can be. On this occasion, Rio Ruiz struck out and then Hanser Alberto grounded out and that was that. The Orioles had no runs.
Immediately after blowing this scoring opportunity, the first Jays batter in the top of the second inning, Randal Grichuk, hit a home run. Grichuk has homered in every game of this series. So the Orioles blew an amazing scoring chance and gave up a run promptly. It’s not ideal.
Another chance presented itself in the bottom of the second. Dwight Smith Jr. and Pat Valaika got things started with back-to-back singles. First and second and none out is another good opportunity to score runs. Or so you’d think.
Unfortunately for the Orioles, the next man up was Chris Davis, who struck out while looking like a guy who will never get another hit ever again. He has looked like that guy often since 2017 and it is worse this year than before. Davis struck out three times today. #9 hitter Cedric Mullins popped out harmlessly, turning the lineup over to Sisco, who would need a base hit for the Orioles to score. He flew out.
That’s where things stayed until the fourth inning, when Alberto led off with a double. How could they blow this one? As it turned out, they didn’t. Smith followed Alberto with a single that Jays right fielder Teoscar Hernandez could not field as it rolled by him. Alberto scored easily to tie the game and Smith ended up on third base, where he scored when Valaika hit another single. Mullins added a single of his own to get Valaika to third base.
Men on the corners and one out is another situation that is great to cash in a run. The Orioles did not. Sisco hit a fly ball to right that was relatively shallow, and hit at such a high angle that Hernandez was able to approach it with forward momentum carrying him to the plate. Despite this being the case, Valaika tried to score from third. Throw, tag, out at the plate. Inning ending double play. How ridiculous. At least the Orioles had taken a 2-1 lead.
The O’s kept the lead until the top of the sixth, when crafty lefty Tommy Milone’s magic ran out. With one out, Travis Shaw hit a hard single to left before Grichuk - yes, him again - drove a pitch into the Orioles bullpen to put the Jays ahead, 3-2. It wasn’t a bad outing for Milone. He struck out seven batters in six innings, didn’t walk anybody, and gave up seven hits. Two of those seven hits were Grichuk homers that led to three runs scoring. Sheesh.
The Jays added insurance in the eighth inning when they manufactured a run by turning a walk, a single, and a sacrifice fly into a run against Thomas Eshelman, who pitched two innings. They got another run in the ninth off of Paul Fry, though it wasn’t Fry’s fault. Smith played a fairly routine fly ball from Cavan Biggio into what was scored as a leadoff double. Biggio eventually scored on a single for a fifth Jays run.
The Orioles went hitless in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. Mullins dropped a bunt with one out in the ninth to break that unfortunate streak. Santander drew a walk with two outs to bring the tying run to the plate in the form of Nunez, who had a seven-game hitting streak on the line. Nunez struck out on three pitchers. Game over. Hitting streak over. Orioles fans hopes for this season getting close to over.
The Orioles exciting 12-8 record has sunk back down to .500 with this four-game losing streak. They’re now 12-12. A small consolation is that this 12-12 record is still enough to have the O’s in a postseason spot, but if they don’t turn things around that’s going to change pretty soon and we’ll be looking at high draft pick standings instead of postseason standings.
The cellar-dwelling Red Sox await the Orioles for the next four games. That could prove to be a chance to turn things back around or it could further confirm that the overachievers of the first 20 games are going to look more like the 2019 version of this team. Nathan Eovaldi and Asher Wojciechowski are the scheduled starters for a 7:35pm opener.