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Orioles playoff hopes on life support after another dud against Jays, 6-3

A national audience watched as homer-happy Toronto seemingly drove a stake into the Birds’ postseason chances.

Baltimore Orioles at Toronto Blue Jays Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

The Orioles’ 2022 postseason hopes already were hanging by a thread. And the Blue Jays may have just snipped it.

The O’s began a must-win series in Toronto with another disappointing loss to the Jays, 6-3, coughing up three costly home runs while mustering little on offense. The defeat dropped the Orioles a full six games back of the Blue Jays, meaning even if the Birds win the five remaining matchups between the two teams, they’re going to need some outside help to catch Toronto. The O’s are five back of Tampa Bay — who are losing 4-3 in the ninth inning as of this writing — for the third wild card spot. The math is only getting harder for the Orioles to climb back into the race.

I must confess that I missed the first inning and a half of this broadcast as we frantically wrestled with our Apple TV app, making one futile attempt after another to log in. (“Enter four-digit code”? What four-digit code? Nobody gave us a four-digit code! Just let me watch the baseball game, you hooligans!) From the box score, it looks like nothing of interest happened in that time frame, but for all I know there were 10 incredible defensive plays, or, I dunno, the game was interrupted by a horde of zombies. The possibilities are limitless.

We finally switched on the game just in time to witness Matt Chapman crush a second-deck home run off Orioles starter Jordan Lyles in the second. Maybe we were better off not watching. The Apple+ broadcast further enraged Orioles fans by playing a clip — without so much as a trigger warning! — of Edwin Encarnacion’s walkoff homer off Ubaldo Jimenez in the 2016 Wild Card Game. Bad form, Apple. Bad form. Still, they redeemed themselves by following up with the classic clip of Rougned Odor decking Jose Bautista.

For the first four innings, that Chapman dinger was Lyles’ only blemish. His velocity and movement were markedly improved over his last outing against the Red Sox, when he returned from illness and noticeably struggled. Lyles gave the Orioles a chance to win tonight...until one fateful pitch to George Springer in the fifth. Lyles was thisclose to escaping a two-on, none-out jam — setting down #8 and #9 hitters Danny Jansen and Jackie Bradley Jr. — but hung a fat curveball right down the middle on a 3-2 count. A blistering 422 feet later, the Jays had tallied three more runs.

Joey Krehbiel, who replaced Lyles in the sixth, proved just as homer-prone. Chapman smacked him for his second roundtripper of the night, a two-run, second-deck shot, to turn this game into a laugher.

The Orioles’ offense, meanwhile, managed practically nothing, despite the fact that the Blue Jays didn’t actually use a starting pitcher. This was a bullpen game, with Toronto cycling through a cavalcade of one- or two-inning guys, nearly all of whom kept the Birds’ bats in check. Trevor Richards and Julian Merryweather got things started with three scoreless, hitless innings between them.

The Birds’ only signs of life came in the third against deposed starter Yusei Kikuchi, whom the Orioles had crushed for 16 runs in 13 innings this season entering tonight. And at first, their dominance of Kikuchi continued. Cedric Mullins roped a leadoff triple to the wall in right-center, bringing up Adley Rutschman. No sooner had the Apple+ broadcast flashed a graphic showing that Adley’s .158 batting average against lefties was the worst in baseball than Rutschman deposited a two-run dinger over the left-field wall, the first right-handed home run of his major league career. For a fleeting moment, the O’s led the game, 2-1.

But even Kikuchi couldn’t cure what ails the Orioles bats. He held them in check for the remainder of his two-inning effort, striking out four and ultimately earning the win. One by one, Blue Jays relievers sauntered into the game and kept the Orioles off the board. Kikuchi was followed by Tim Mayza, Adam Cimber, and Anthony Bass, each of whom worked a scoreless frame. The Birds attempted a rally in the eighth, when they put two on with one out against Bass. But Mullins fouled out on the first pitch and Rutschman lined out.

The only sign of life from the Orioles offense came on a Gunnar Henderson FUHR in the ninth, an opposite-field solo shot with two down. But Yimi Garcia easily retired the next batter to finish things up, and the Orioles were officially sunk. The same may be true, unfortunately, of their playoff chances.