On the first play of the first game of Monday’s Orioles-Blue Jays doubleheader, George Springer hit a ground ball that left the bat at 108.6 miles per hour. Orioles shortstop Jorge Mateo made a diving stop to his left to field the grounder, then, while falling off balance, fired a two bounce throw to first baseman Ryan Mountcastle, who stretched about as far as he could to haul in the ball and get out the runner. The crowd erupted. It was an amazing play.
This was one of those plays where you could just feel, immediately, that everyone in the stadium was aware of the stakes of the game and what it all meant. It was like “the play” when you get into the late innings of a potential no-hitter. If the entire Orioles team could have carried that kind of energy through into the rest of the game, it would have been an absolute romp. They didn’t. They instead trudged along to a deflating coulda-been-different loss, 7-3.
You can point at whatever frustrated or outraged you the most as making the biggest difference in the game. Orioles minor leaguer Mike Baumann, summoned as the extra man for the doubleheader to make his first MLB start, was eminently hittable, allowing eight hits in five innings and 11 batted balls of 95+ miles per hour overall. He did not help very much, or do anything to show that maybe he should take over for the faltering Spenser Watkins down the stretch.
Baumann was hardly the only culprit. The Orioles had their share of opportunities to really break open the game against their former pitcher Kevin Gausman, making his first not-as-an-Oriole start on Monday afternoon. The O’s capitalized on exactly none of those chances, going 0-8 with runners in scoring position across the whole game. Though Gausman allowed seven hits over 6.2 innings, he did a good job scattering them, allowing just two runs. Crucially, he didn’t walk anyone.
In a familiar theme from recent games, this RISP futility included the Orioles failing to score a man from second base with none out in both the fourth and fifth innings, and blowing the chance to bring home a man from second with one out in the sixth. That last one occurred as Ryan Mountcastle doubled off the right field scoreboard - maybe two feet away from getting a home run - and it was bungled by the Jays outfield, allowing Adley Rutschman to score from first on the play. That’s one way to get around RISP problems.
The fourth inning was an especially frustrating scene to witness, as Gausman was on the verge of coming unglued after being called for a balk. He had to be restrained by a teammate from getting in the face of the umpire who called the balk. Players have been ejected for less. Perhaps he’s gotten a handle on the meltdowns since being traded away from here. After getting over the initial explosion, Gausman responded by striking out Anthony Santander, Mountcastle, and Ramón Urías in succession. Geez, man.
In fairness to Santander, he took four pitches out of the zone in his at-bat, but the ump rung him up on a full count pitch well below the zone. This was a recurring theme in the game. As noted by Orioles beat writer Zachary Silver’s screenshots of the official pitch data, the Orioles batters bore the brunt of outside-the-zone strike calls.
In even more fairness to Santander, he homered from both sides of the plate in this game, blasting a Eutaw Street home run for the eighth time in his career off of Gausman in the first inning, then lighting up Jays reliever Tim Mayza in the eighth inning. Both home runs traveled 414 feet. Impressive symmetry. Santander is certainly not part of why the Orioles lost the game. He now has 27 home runs this season.
Perhaps most deflating of all for Orioles fans is that the game also hinged on Gunnar Henderson - making his just 11th ever professional start at second base - blowing a couple of double play opportunities. These misplays directly led to two Jays runs scoring instead of innings being over. In the third inning, Henderson bobbled the transfer when trying to make a relay throw. In the fifth, he dropped a hard shot right at him, preventing him from starting a 4-6-3 double play.
Neither one of these shows up in the box score as an error. “You can’t assume the double play,” as they say, no matter how often the plain evidence of your eyes suggests that you could and probably should. Henderson has made some amazing plays as a shortstop already. Maybe he should just play third base and Urías should be the one to play second when Rougned Odor is on the bench. Or maybe Henderson will be just fine at second base whenever called upon for the next month and no one should overreact to one unfortunate game.
Just to salt the wound a little bit more, the game turned into something of a laugher in the ninth inning when the bad version of DL Hall was called upon to be the “let’s make sure we don’t have to use up any more pitchers while losing with a second game still to play later” pitcher. He did not succeed in this role.
Hall got one out to finish off the eighth inning, then simply blew in the ninth. He faced five batters in the ninth and did not get any outs in the inning. Four hits, one walk; Hall got three of these guys to two strikes but just couldn’t put them away, including an 11-pitch walk to #9 hitter Santiago Espinal. Beau Sulser, freshly called up today, had to come in to get through the ninth.
Whoever you want to blame and whatever percentage of blame you want to assign around, the fact remains the same. The Orioles could have really used this one, and despite trailing by no fewer than two runs until the ninth inning, it never felt very much like they had a chance to get it. Now, they are 3.5 games back of the Jays in the wild card race with 28 games left to play - including one more today and another three in this series overall. Chances are there to make up for this loss, but not if they keep playing like this.
Jordan Lyles and José Berríos are lined up as the starting pitchers for the second game of the doubleheader. Berríos has struggled this year, bringing a 5.32 ERA into the start. The Orioles hitters need to take advantage, especially since manager Brandon Hyde told reporters before the game that Lyles woke up under the weather and that’s why Lyles didn’t start this game. So who knows what they’re going to get from him.