There’s just something about Sunday afternoons that brings out the worst in the Orioles recently.
The O’s suffered their seventh straight Sunday day game defeat, a total dud against the Athletics that ruined a sweep attempt and lost them costly ground in the wild card race. While the Orioles limped to their 5-0 loss at the hands of the AL’s worst team, the Blue Jays completed a sweep of the lowly Pirates to extend their wild card lead to 2.5 games over the Birds.
Today’s game was exciting for approximately half an inning. Second baseman Gunnar Henderson began the tilt with a pair of outstanding defensive plays on the first two Athletics hitters, sending a roar through the crowd of Camden Yards crowd of 19,883. It was the last thing they’d have to cheer about all afternoon.
The O’s wasted a second-and-third, one-out rally in the bottom of the first on groundouts by Ryan Mountcastle and Henderson, and they never really threatened to score again. The A’s, meanwhile, took advantage of their opportunities against shaky O’s starter Spenser Watkins. In the second, the A’s lashed three consecutive singles, punctuated with an RBI knock by Sheldon Neuse (pronounced “noisy”). It was a noisy hit indeed, giving Oakland a 1-0 lead.
Watkins got out of the second with no further damage, but the A’s were right back at it in the third. Watkins walked the leadoff man, Vimael Machin. His name, by the way, is pronounced “machine,” so this guy should really be batting behind Neuse. Who wouldn’t be intimidated by a Noisy Machine?
Watkins then gave up a double to Stephen Vogt, and...oh wait! Move him between Neuse and Machin and now you’ve got a Noisy Vote Machine in the lineup.
Enough wordplay! Get to the action! you shout impatiently. OK, if you insist, but it’s really all downhill from here for the Orioles. Shea Langeliers did what the O’s couldn’t, cashing in both RISP with a single to center, extending the A’s lead to 3-0. Watkins gave up another single later that inning and at that point had surrendered seven hits in the span of 14 batters. That’s not ideal. He did settle down long enough to work a perfect fourth and fifth, but Seth Brown greeted him with a leadoff homer in the sixth.
In the first two games of the series, by the way, Seth Brown was batting directly behind Sean Murphy, forming a lineup tandem of, yes, Murphy-Brown. Yet Candice Bergen was nowhere to be found.
What did I tell you about wordplay?? you growl, pounding the table. Look, when your ballclub gets romped by a terrible team, you have to make up your own fun. The 4-0 deficit might as well have been 14-0 considering the Orioles’ total offensive blackout against rookie A’s starter Adrián Martínez, who had just six major league starts to his name entering the day.
Martínez, a right-hander acquired from the Padres in the Sean Manaea trade in April, hurled the best start of his young career, flummoxing Orioles hitters with a nifty changeup that he wasn’t afraid to throw in any count. That failed first-inning rally was the closest the O’s came to scoring against Martínez, a stark contrast to the powerful Birds bats that blasted five home runs the previous night. The only other runner they put in scoring position was Jorge Mateo in the fifth, who walked and stole second (his 30th steal), but a Robinson Chirinos popout snuffed that modest threat. Two other Orioles reached base but both were erased on double plays, including one that ended the sixth and prompted Martínez to spike the ball in celebration.
Martínez ended his afternoon with six scoreless innings. Two starts ago, he had a 6.08 ERA, but he gained a lot of confidence in his last outing by throwing 5.1 strong innings against the Yankees. So, as always, I blame the Yankees for this.
As for Watkins, he departed after allowing a leadoff single in the seventh, finishing with six innings of four-run ball. Not horrible, but not great, and nowhere good enough to earn him his first win since Aug. 1. Mop-up men Nick Vespi and Rico Garcia handled the rest of the game, with Vespi coughing up Brown’s second home run of the day, a Eutaw Street blast in the eighth, to make it 5-0.
For Oakland, relievers Joel Payamps, Domingo Acevedo, and A.J. Puk combined to complete the shutout and stifle the sweep.
The Orioles still emerged with a series win, which is nothing to sneeze at. But with the Blue Jays headed to town tomorrow for the most pivotal O’s series in the last half-decade, it would’ve been nice to see the Birds head into the battle on a positive note. Instead we got, well, this.