Any hope of the Orioles sneaking into a Wild Card spot seemingly flat-lined Saturday night in a 17-4 loss to the Red Sox.
Sure the heartbeat of the O’s playoff chances was feint heading into Saturday’s game anyway. However, for there to be any hope of resuscitating those chances, the O’s needed to find ways to sweep a team like the Red Sox. They needed a strong start from Jordan Lyles and more signs of life from their inconsistent offense. The Orioles got neither of those things in the loss Saturday.
Baltimore was seemingly dealt a fatal blow in this game before they even got a chance to hit. Lyles loaded the bases against the first three batters he faced—walking Tommy Pham, giving up a single to Alex Verdugo and hitting Xander Bogaerts. All of that set up Rafael Devers to drive 2-0 fast into the bullpens for a grand slam that put Boston up 4-0—all before Lyles recorded an out.
Earlier this week, Lyles missed his scheduled start against the Blue Jays after suffering from flu-like symptoms. While the veteran righty was healthy enough to make the start Saturday, it was clear early on that he wasn’t feeling 100%. Lyle’s fastball was a couple of miles per hour slower than normal, he couldn’t get a feel for his breaking balls and he consistently struggled to convert two-strike counts into outs.
The second was a little cleaner for Lyles, though he still had to work out of a two-on, one-out jam to escape the inning unscathed. The third turned out to be the only 1-2-3 inning of the day for the Orioles starter—though he did give up a loud fly ball off the bat of Trevor Story, which was caught on the warning track by Cedric Mullins.
Then, in the fourth inning, the Orioles were finally forced to pull the plug on the Lyles start. The O’s entered the top of the fourth down 4-1 after a Cedric Mullins solo-HR in the bottom of the third. Lyles would give that run right back after consecutive doubles from Enrique Hernandez and Kevin Plawecki, and things only got worse from there.
After getting Pham to fly out, Lyles gave up back-to-back singles to Verdugo and Bogaerts—allowing Plawecki to score—and that’s when Brandon Hyde decided Lyles’ day was over. Keegan Akin would come in from the pen and immediately allow two more singles—which pushed across the inherited runners Verdugo and Bogaerts. The inning finally finished with the Orioles down 8-1, and Lyles’ final line finished at 3.2 innings pitched, seven hits allowed, eight earned runs and only one strikeout.
Birdland’s woes Saturday were further compounded by an offense that never seemed capable of making a huge comeback. The most lively inning for the Birds’ bats came in the fifth when they were already down 10-1. GUNNAR HENDERSON led off the inning with a single up the middle. Ramon Urias followed up by launching a ball to left field, barely missing a HR, as it caromed off the top of the Great Wall of Baltimore for a double. HENDERSON would then come in to score on a Jorge Mateo sac fly, while Urias later scored on a Mullins single.
Outside of the mini outburst in the fifth, the Orioles’ offense seemed largely lifeless. The Red Sox continually sprayed the ball to all fields, collecting hits on everything from home runs over the Wall to blooped singles in between three O’s fielders. The Orioles, on the other hand, always seemed to hit the ball right at a Boston defender. Some of their best contact resulted in balls that died at the warning track or were caught right against the fence.
Baltimore got their final run of the day on a Ryan Mountcastle eighth-inning single, bringing home Ryan McKenna after he reached on a two-base fielding error. The eighth also saw the debut of reliever Yennier Cano—a pitcher the Orioles acquired from the Twins in the Jorge Lopez trade. The flame-throwing righty worked 1.2 innings, giving up six hits, walking three and allowing seven runs. The stat line is perhaps a little harsh to Cano, as Hyde clearly left him in longer than he should’ve to try and get through the ninth.
When it became clear the Cano had nothing left in the tank, McKenna took the mound with the bases loaded to try and get the last out of the inning. Three more runs came around to score with McKenna pitching, but he did finally get that out.
Perhaps Saturday was the clearest indicator of why this Orioles team—one that needs Jordan Lyles to work some magic to even hope to make playoffs—isn’t quite ready for October baseball. However, it still always stings to get thoroughly embarrassed by a divisional rival—especially when you’re just on the outside looking in on the playoff race. The O’s still have a chance to win the series on Sunday, and they’ll look to put this loss behind them by doing just that. In the meantime, Birdland should just try to forget this game ever happened.