Whether in Camden Yards or in Buffalo, New York, the Orioles don’t know how to get Randal Grichuk out when they really need to.
The Blue Jays slugger dealt the Orioles yet another blow, and this one hurt. Grichuk smacked a two-run, walk-off home run off of Cule Sulser with two outs in the bottom of the 10th, lifting Toronto to a 5-4 victory over Baltimore.
The game featured all players wearing No. 42 for Jackie Robinson Day, which normally falls during April but was moved up due to the coronavirus pandemic. The game was also the Orioles’ first after they sat out their game with the Rays on Thursday in solidarity with multiple sport protests against racial injustice.
The Orioles scored the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th and got a pair of quick outs to open the bottom half, but had to go through Grichuk to finish the victory. The same Grichuk who went 6-for-14 against the O’s in an early three-game sweep, including four home runs, a double and 11 RBI.
The Orioles had held Grichuk relatively in check during the game with one hit and two strikeouts in four at-bats, but they didn’t have another out in them. He hammered a 1-0 offering from Sulser over the center field wall, making it four wins in as many games for Toronto against the O’s this season.
It hurt, because until that point it felt like the Orioles were closing in on a pretty satisfying, resilient win. They hadn’t led before extra innings, and were trailing 3-2 in the eighth before Renato Nunez obliterated a hanging Jordan Romano slider for a game-tying home run.
In the 10th, the Orioles’ commitment to small ball seemingly paid off. Cedric Mullins dropped a nice bunt that got Rio Ruiz to third - a formula that lifted Baltimore to its last extra-inning win, against Boston - and Hanser Alberto, a pest all night with four hits, blooped a one-out single to shallow center, scoring Ruiz for a 4-3 lead.
All they needed was for Sulser to hold for a second inning after pitching the ninth. It’s a strategy manager Brandon Hyde has been employing often this season, and for the third straight time, it didn’t work. This time, instead of wildness, it was the big hit that did the rookie hurler in.
Long before the extra inning drama, the Orioles seemed destined to be kicking themselves over a night of missed opportunities. While Baltimore starter John Means pitched well but was hurt by back-to-back fourth-inning home runs by Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Teoscar Hernandez, Toronto starter Hyun-Jin Ryu constantly let the Orioles sniff rallies. Baltimore had hits in all six of Ryu’s innings, and the leadoff man on in four of them, but Ryu kept getting the ground ball or the strikeout or the fly ball (one of which was snagged on a diving catch by - guess who - Grichuk in the first) that he needed.
In the sixth, however, Baltimore opened with an Alberto single and then, two batters later, an Iglesias single, getting runners on second and third when Iglesias went for second on an errant throw and got in with a crafty slide.
Ryu seemed to pull off another escape when he got Ryan Mountcastle to ground to third with two outs, but Travis Shaw threw off-balance to first and his throw skipped by Guerrero, allowing both runners to score and tie the game at 2.
The good feeling didn’t last long, as Guerrero doubled off of Dillon Tate to open the bottom of the sixth and Hernandez drew a walk. It felt like the Orioles were pulling off their own escape when Tate got a 6-4-3 double play (thanks to a nice pick by Nunez at first), but the big play was negated when Tanner Scott, summoned to face Rowdy Tellez, skipped his very first pitch by Pedro Severino, allowing Guerrero to score easily for a 3-2 lead.
Scott and Miguel Castro held Toronto the next two innings, allowing Nunez to even the game up again. Sulser too was looking good when he came in, until he let one pitch get away from him. To Randal Grichuk, 2020’s Gleyber Torres, of all people.
Perhaps overshadowed by the sting of an extra-inning loss is the bad night the Orioles had on the bases. Baltimore was thrown out three times; one of those occasions was Mullins on a straight steal attempt in the seventh, one was Mountcastle on what appeared to be a botched hit-and-run in the ninth, and the third was only moments later when Pat Valaika, after a single, tried to advance on a ball in the dirt and was gunned down by Blue Jays catcher Danny Jansen.
It wasn’t all the baserunners’ fault - Valaika was thrown out on a great play by Jansen, and Mountcastle seemed to be the victim of a miscommunication - but they were breaks for the Blue Jays that ultimately loomed large. Two runners on could have changed the ninth completely, and instead, the Orioles were left trying to hang on in a tie game.
Ultimately, though, the O’s got to where they wanted to be. They just, unfortunately, ran into the last person they wanted to see.