Well, that was a bummer.
The number of things riding on this game have been documented thoroughly, but for a quick recap. Today was the final game between the Orioles and Rays this season, with the Rays a half-game up on the Orioles in the wild card race. A win by the Orioles would have gotten them back into a playoff spot. It also would have given them a 9-8 edge on the season series which could be important in the event of a tiebreaker scenario. And, just for fun, it would have put the Orioles in third place in the American League East.
Not only did none of those things happen, the Orioles were almost on the wrong end of a perfect game. Thank the heavens for Jorge Mateo, who lined a clean double down the left field line to start the ninth inning, for keeping the Orioles out of the history books.
For the first two innings, it felt like the Orioles were in this game. After that? Not so much.
The Orioles were unable to make anything happen against Rays’ starter Drew Rasmussen. The Orioles couldn’t or wouldn’t work the count, and through five perfect innings Rasmussen had thrown only 44 pitches! For those of you who are bad at math, that is fewer than 10 pitches per inning, which is absurd.
Through two innings, Orioles’ starter Jordan Lyles pretty much matched Rasmussen pitch for pitch. He did walk a batter in the second, but otherwise he was very impressive. He racked up five strikeouts through those two innings and I, personally, had a good feeling about this game. But then the third inning came and wiped away that feeling.
Jose Siri singled and Taylor Walls doubled to put runners on second and third with no outs, and Lyles almost got out of it. He struck out Ji-Man Choi and got a pop out from Yandy Diaz. He just had to retire Oriole killer Randy Arozarena to complete the Houdini act. Reader, he did no such thing.
Lyles’s first pitch hit the bottom inside corner with a sinker and Arozarena got a piece of it. His second pitch was also a sinker a little up and a little more over the plate, and Arozarena crushed it. The no doubter homer traveled 402 feet to give the Rays a 3-0 lead. And with the way the Orioles’ at-bats were looking against Rasmussen, it felt more like 10-0.
Lyles worked around a leadoff double in the fourth but wasn’t as good in the fifth. Taylor Walls singled, and with one out Lyles walked Yandy Diaz. With Arozarena coming up next, Brandon Hyde was not interested in seeing a repeat performance. He called on Joey Krehbiel, who induced a ground ball to Jorge Mateo. Mateo got the ball to second base for one out, but Rougned Odor couldn’t get the ball out of his glove quickly enough to turn the double play.
Given new life, the Rays struck. David Peralta singled to left to make the score 4-0 in support of Rasmussen’s bid for perfection.
Meanwhile, Rasmussen kept rolling. He needed just 10 pitches to get through the sixth and nine to get through the seventh. At that point 21 straight Orioles had been retired.
Rougned Odor looked like he might do something with one out in the eighth inning, as he worked an eight-pitch at-bat, the longest of the night. But he ultimately struck out, followed by an Austin Hays groundout to make it 24 straight Orioles retired.
After Krehbiel, Keegan Akin did his part to keep the score where it was, not that it mattered. Akin pitched two scoreless, followed by Logan Gillaspie to get the final two outs of the eighth. It wasn’t easy as he gave up a single and then a long fly ball to right-center. It looked like a possible double but Cedric Mullins made a great running catch and then doubled the runner off first to end the inning.
Then it was down to the ninth inning. After the way the game had gone so far, the perfect game seemed like a foregone conclusion. Not so fast, says Jorge Mateo! Mateo jumped on the first pitch that he saw and lined it just inside the foul line at third base. He landed at second base with an easy double and the perfect game was no more.
After moving to third base on a groundout by pinch hitter Terrin Vavra, Mateo raced home to score the Orioles’ only run on a wild pitch. Rasmussen then struck out Brett Phillips, but Phillips raced to first as the ball got away from the catcher and was safe.
With that play, Rasmussen was pulled from the game. He still had a killer pitching line, but to not even get the complete game after all that is rough.
Sadly a comeback was not to be. Relief pitcher Jason Adam finished off Mullins and Adley Rutschman to end the game.
Now the Orioles head to Toronto, where they hope the series loss against the Rays won’t come back to hurt them in the end.