You may have thought that the Orioles’ offense woke up Monday night.
Instead, if Tuesday’s game was any indication, all it did was hit the snooze button and go back to sleep.
After putting up 14 runs, 15 hits and four home runs in the first game of the series, the Orioles went back to their listless form in a 5-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves Tuesday night, wasting a solid combined effort from Tom Eshelman and the Baltimore bullpen.
It looked and felt like more from the series the Orioles just limped away from, a four-game sweep against the Yankees during which the Birds scored only three runs altogether. Baltimore managed only four hits, two coming from Jose Iglesias. They went down in order five times. They had no hits in the third through sixth innings. The only run came in the ninth, with the game all but decided.
And yet, for most of the game they had a real shot, as Eshelman and the Orioles relievers kept the heavy-hitting Braves within striking distance. Eshelman (3.1 innings, six hits, two runs, four strikeouts) struck out three of the first five batters of the game, but Atlanta jumped on top in the top of the third when No. 9 hitter Ozzie Albies doubled into the left-center field gap, and after a Ronald Acuna Jr. flyout, Freddie Freeman laced a double off the right field wall to bring him in.
Atlanta stretched its lead an inning later, when Adam Duvall, red hot this September, cranked an Eshelman offering to left for a home run and a 2-0 lead. It was Duvall’s 10th home run of the month, which leads the major leagues and, considering it’s only Sept. 15, is frankly insane.
But the Orioles didn’t let the Braves add to their lead, and kept buying the offense time to figure out Atlanta starter Huascar Ynoa. After manager Brandon Hyde was tossed for arguing a check swing, Paul Fry escaped a first-and-third jam to limit the damage in the fourth.
In the fifth, Atlanta threatened again with Travis d’Arnaud at third and Dansby Swanson at first with one out, but Travis Lakins punched out Nick Markakis and Duvall to end the threat. Cole Sulser kept the Braves off the board in the sixth and seventh. Asher Wojciechowski did the same in the eighth.
But there were just no answers coming in the bottom halves of the innings. Baltimore couldn’t dent Ynoa, who struck out four and allowed only two hits in four shutout innings. The Orioles flirted early, with Iglesias doubling with one out in the first and Pedro Severino leading off the second with a single, but both runners were left on base.
That counted as an offensive eruption considering what came next. Fourteen straight Orioles were retired, shut down by a combination of Ynoa, old buddy Darren O’Day (who got the win) and Will Smith. The streak finally ended with Iglesias’s single leading off the seventh, allowing the Orioles to finally get the tying run to the plate, but a D.J. Stewart groundout and flyouts to right from Ryan Mountcastle and Pedro Severino kept the Birds where they were.
The inability to erase the deficit loomed large in the ninth, when the Braves went wild in their second look at Wojciechowski. Acuna walked to lead off, and Freeman smacked his second double of the game to center field to score the fleet-footed superstar and make it 3-0. It was insurance for the Braves, but it was nearly an Oriole highlight; the relay from Cedric Mullins to Hanser Alberto to Severino was crisp, and the throw was where it needed to be, just not in time to catch Acuna sliding in a heartbeat ahead.
Atlanta wasn’t done with the Oriole righty. Marcell Ozuna hit a hard single to left, bringing in Freeman, and after d’Arnaud singled to put runners at the corners, Swanson hit a fly ball to left to score Ozuna and make it 5-0.
The Orioles saved themselves the indignity of being shut out in the ninth when Mullins hit a one-out double to right, moved up on a wild pitch and eventually scored on a groundout from Iglesias, making it 5-1. But that was all a rally was going to look like in the end.
The Orioles are now 21-27, and sit 5.5 games behind Toronto for third in the AL East. The playoff odds, according to ESPN, are at 0.7 percent.