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Complete and utter defensive meltdown dooms Orioles as Yankees sweep

The Orioles were charged with five errors in one disastrous afternoon, and even that doesn’t tell the full story of their defensive ineptitude.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at New York Yankees
Pictured: one of six unearned runs crosses the plate.
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that will teach Orioles fans not to start feeling optimistic about their team.

Just when you think things are starting to look up — that the O’s pitching has been better than expected, that the offense has come alive of late, that the youngsters are on the way — it only takes a game like today’s to douse those good vibes. To change the tenor from, “Hey, maybe they’re getting better!” to “My God, they’ll never be competent again.”

I mean, yikes. What a debacle.

The Orioles today unleashed one of the biggest travesties of a defensive effort you’ll ever see from an alleged major league squad. They committed five (5) errors, and could have been charged with at least two more with a less forgiving official scorer. The festival of miscues turned a once-winnable game into a 10-5 bloodbath, completing a three-game sweep for the Yankees and giving the Orioles a 3-7 mark on their formerly competitive 10-game road trip.

Seriously, this thing was just awful. A true monstrosity.

The crux of the disaster occurred in the bottom of the fifth, which the Orioles entered leading, 2-0. Bruce Zimmermann was putting up another sparkling performance, starting the game with four scoreless innings.

But then he made a fatal mistake: he let the Yankees hit the ball to Orioles infielders.

The meltdown began on Tim Locastro’s sharply hit grounder to third. Kelvin Gutierrez, to his credit, made a nice diving spear. But he short-hopped the throw to first, and Trey Mancini couldn’t pick it. Gutierrez was charged with an error, but I’m going to give a couple demerits to Mancini as well for not corralling that one. Even still, Mancini turned out to be the most spotless of the O’s infielders in this inning.

Marwin Gonzalez laced a double to left field, plating Locastro with the first of many, many unearned runs. Then, with one out, the Orioles’ infield defensive malaise began to make its way around the horn, spreading from Gutierrez to shortstop Jorge Mateo, who bungled a routine grounder for the Birds’ second error and put runners at the corners.

Even after all that, Zimmermann very nearly got out of the inning with the lead intact, as Aaron Judge smacked a shot near second base for a possible double play. But, alas, the dreaded Veil of Incompetence had by then floated over to second baseman Rougned Odor, who couldn’t handle the hot shot as it kicked into center field. Judge was credited with a single because the ball was hit hard, but come on — it’s a play that should have been made by a major league second baseman. In any case, Gonzalez scored the tying run (and it was unearned, because the inning should have been over before Judge even batted). In a span of five plays in the fifth inning, each of the Orioles’ four infielders had botched a makeable play, and the floodgates were officially open. It’s truly remarkable in its grotesqueness.

Zimmermann lasted one more batter, giving up an RBI single to Anthony Rizzo — scoring LeMahieu for another unearned run — before Brandon Hyde pulled him, allowing Bruce a merciful reprieve from having to put up with his own infielders. For good measure, Giancarlo Stanton singled off Bryan Baker to bring home the Yankees’ fourth unearned run of the inning. So Zimmermann’s final line read like this: 4.1 innings, four runs, zero earned runs. He actually lowered his season ERA to 0.93. Just think what this guy could do with a good team around him!

The Orioles’ once-capable bullpen has sprung a few leaks lately, which perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise for a largely untested crew. My birthday buddy Mike Baumann worked 1.2 innings but was scored upon for the fourth time in five outings, and he, too, fell victim to the defensive oopsie-daisies. In the sixth, with Joey Gallo at second, Baumann reached for a Locastro comebacker and let it glance off his glove, then raced to pick it up and uncorked a wild, panicked throw to first that got past Mancini, allowing the lead runner to advance to third. The play was ruled a single and an error, but frankly it could have been scored a double error on Baumann — first the botched pickup that allowed Locastro to reach, then the wild throw that moved up Gallo. A Gonzalez sac fly promptly scored Gallo — and yes, the run was unearned.

There was time for one final fielding fail in the eighth, once again courtesy of Mateo, who charged in to scoop a LeMahieu grounder and then muffed it. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s five errors today for your Baltimore Orioles, all by infielders. It could easily have been seven errors if Odor had been charged with one in the fifth and Baumann with a double error in the sixth. Mateo’s miscue was followed by a run-scoring wild pitch by Paul Fry and then a mammoth three-run homer by Judge, bringing home unearned run #6. (I hate to say this of a fellow Paul, but Fry and his 10.29 ERA may not be much longer for this team.)

According to the Baltimore Sun’s Andy Kostka, today was the Orioles’ first five-error game since Aug. 8, 2018, and their first time allowing six unearned runs since May 28, 2016. And all of us were here to witness it. #blessed

The three error-makers tried their best to atone at the plate, with Odor, Mateo, and Gutierrez combining for six hits, including a 3-for-5 performance by the former Yankee Odor. The offense as a whole banged out 14 hits, but were only 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position until the ninth, when they strung together three runs on four hits. By then, it was too late to matter, and the O’s slumped away with a particularly embarrassing 10-5 defeat.

Tomorrow, the Orioles finally return to Camden Yards. For their sake, let’s hope they remember to bring their gloves.