When they had runners in scoring position, the Orioles couldn’t hit themselves in. When the ball was hit to them, they had a hard time fielding it. And their starting pitcher was ... well, let’s just say he wasn’t quite “locked in.”
Not the best formula to bring to the ballpark. And it was one that added up to a sweep for the visiting - kind of - Miami Marlins.
Baltimore’s bats bounced back, but the Orioles couldn’t do enough else right as the Marlins wrapped up the four-game sweep at Camden Yards with an 8-7 victory Thursday night.
The Orioles hit four home runs, two coming from Renato Nunez, but they made two errors that led directly to Miami runs, and they were weighed down by a ineffective start from Wade LeBlanc, who had gotten off to a solid beginning in his Oriole career but was unable to get through an inning Thursday without finding himself in immediate trouble.
It started with the very first pitch the Marlins saw. LeBlanc tried to challenge Jonathan Villar with a fastball over the heart of the plate, and our old friend did what one does with such a pitch and smacked it over the left-field wall for a 1-0 Marlins lead.
The Orioles got the run back in the top of the second on a Nunez home run, but the inning would go on to showcase a night-long problem for the Baltimore offense. Chance Sisco hit the next pitch into the left-center field gap for a double, but the Orioles - who struck out three straight times after Hanser Alberto led off the game with a double - squandered the chance when Austin Hays flew out on a well-hit ball, Chris Davis struck out and Pat Valaika flew to right.
Again the Marlins jumped ahead, when Lewis Brinson walked and eventually scored on Magneuris Sierra’s sacrifice fly, and again the Orioles responded in the third when Alberto led off with a single, Anthony Santander brought him in with a triple that was just out of the reach of a racing Monte Harrison in center field, and Dwight Smith Jr. made it 3-2 with a sacrifice fly.
LeBlanc, however, couldn’t make his offense’s work stand up. A Jose Iglesias web gem gave him an out to start the third, but Francisco Cervelli doubled with two outs, Jesus Aguilar followed with an infield single, and Brian Anderson drilled another single to score both and put Miami back ahead 4-3.
Sisco cranked a home run in the top of the fourth to even the game yet again at 4, but a series of lowlights gave the Marlins back the lead in the bottom half. After Logan Forsythe led off with a single, LeBlanc plunked Sierra - on an 0-2 pitch, no less - to put himself back on the hook yet again.
After a fly ball moved Forsythe up, ol’ buddy, ol’ pal Villar singled to right, allowing Forsythe to score, and Sierra came in as well when Santander’s throw skipped past Valaika at third. Villar went to second, and LeBlanc became hell-bent on keeping him there, so much so that he at one point tried to pick him off, then changed his mind, then tried to throw back home with his momentum going to second. The world’s most obvious balk put Villar at third, and manager Brandon Hyde couldn’t make the change fast enough, summoning Shawn Armstrong to put out the fire.
Despite their follies in the field, the Orioles weren’t done at the plate. Dwight Smith Jr. ripped a home run to right-center field leading off the sixth, and Nunez blasted another baseball three pitches later, squaring the game up again at 6. The O’s had a gift-wrapped chance to surge ahead, as Sisco followed with a walk and Hays took a 96 mile-per-hour fastball to the ribs, but the two-on, no-out opportunity slipped away when Davis and Valaika popped up and Alberto flew to left, bringing the Orioles to 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position for the night.
The Marlins took the lead for the final time in the seventh off of Evan Phillips. Jon Berti was hit by a pitch, and he went to third when Cervelli’s single through the shortstop-third base hole was muffed by Smith in left. Hyde summoned Mychal Givens, but Aguilar flew to the warning track in left to score Berti, and Cervelli came in when Anderson’s line drive to deep center was just off the glove of a hard-sprinting Hays for a triple.
The Orioles did eventually break their RISP dry spell in the ninth when Chris Davis doubled and pinch-hitter Pedro Severino singled him in, but Alberto hit into a double play, and Iglesias’s ground out ended the matter.
It was a considerably different-looking game than the low-scoring affairs the Orioles had dropped to the Marlins earlier in the series, but it was still a case of Miami just doing a little more and making fewer mistakes than Baltimore. There were some good signs - it’s good to see Nunez becoming a dangerous presence at the plate again, and it was nice to see Alberto bounce back from a rough start to the series - but it was still a disappointing set. Baltimore moves on to Washington; hopefully a series with the defending world champions will see an uptick in play.