An awful day of baseball at Camden Yards came to a merciful close on Monday night as the Orioles lost 8-4 to the visiting Blue Jays, suffering a sweep at the hands of the team directly in front of them in the playoff race.
Following a 7-3 loss in the first game of the day, things went from bad to worse for the Orioles when it was revealed that projected starter Jordan Lyles would not be able to take his turn in the rotation for game two. Lyles attempted to warmup, but couldn’t continue, citing an illness as the cause.
As a result, the Orioles made a move in-between games, promoting Bruce Zimmerman for needed length out of the bullpen. Beau Sulser, who had just been called up earlier in the day, was optioned to make room.
Keegan Akin made the spot start, and things went well...for a little bit. The lefty worked two scoreless innings, striking out four in the process and allowing just one runner, a Teoscar Hernandez double.
In the meantime, the Orioles took the lead. The much-maligned Rougned Odor crushed a no-doubt dong to deep right field. It was the second baseman’s 12th homer of the season, and it represented some of the only good news for the home team in this one.
Things got wobbly in the third for Akin. A double from Jackie Bradley Jr. and then a walk for George Springer was enough to get him the boot in favor of Nick Vespi.
Vespi’s appearance was noteworthy because it meant the southpaw would pitch on three straight days, something no other Orioles pitcher has done this season. It was a tactic employed by manager Brandon Hyde to keep his relievers as fresh as possible, and he would have looked like a genius if the first time he pulled it off was a success. But it wasn’t. Vespi served up a three-run homer to Bo Bichette to give the Blue Jays a 3-1 lead.
After that, Hyde turned to the recently promoted Zimmermann. The hope was that he could both provide innings and regain the form he had at the start of the season. Welp, at least he accomplished the former.
The Baltimore-born hurler got through the fourth and fifth innings unscathed, but then he started to give up home runs. Bichette led off the sixth with his second home run of the day. Cavan Biggio followed with another dong in the same frame. Zimmerman was left in to take this one on the chin. Three consecutive hits from Raimel Tapia, Danny Jansen, and Bradley Jr. scored two more runs.
Bichette was back to continue contributing to Zimmermann’s nightmarish outing in the seventh inning. The shortstop launched his third long ball of the day, a shot to centerfield, to put the Blue Jays up 8-1.
The sluggish Orioles offense mounted somewhat of a comeback attempt in the bottom of the seventh inning. An Odor walk, a Kyle Stowers single, and a Robinson Chirinos base hit loaded the bases with no outs. A catcher’s interference with Cedric Mullins at the plate kept the bases loaded and scored Odor. Adley Rutschman added to the lead with an RBI fielder’s choice, scoring Stowers. The promise of a big inning was still in the air, but it would not come to fruition as Anthony Santander and Ryan Mountcastle were both retired to halt the threat.
There was one last bit of offense in store. Rutschman launched his 10th home run of the season in the bottom of the ninth inning. But that was the extent of it as the O’s fell 8-4.
It should be noted that Zimmermann came back out to the mound for the top of the ninth, and he was able to toss one more zero to finish up his day after six innings of relief. The stat line is not pretty, and even the six innings feel empty when the Orioles really needed quality and quantity on this day. But considering the hand he was dealt, Zimmermann’s effort is at least appreciated.
But to say that today was a disappointment is an understatement. The Orioles didn’t need to emerge with wins in both games of the doubleheader, although it would have been nice. But they did need to avoid being swept themselves. They were unable to accomplish that.
The math starts to get tough for the Orioles. They will now sit 4.5 games back of these Blue Jays for the final AL wild card spot. It’s not an impossible mountain to climb, and considering they still have eight games against the Jays, including the final two games of this series, you could say they hold their own destiny in their hands. At the same time, it is a tall task with a remaining schedule that feels a lot shorter than it did just a few hours ago.
A win on Tuesday now feels like a requirement. The O’s will turn to a hot hand in rookie Kyle Bradish. He faces off against Mitch White, a trade deadline acquisition from the Dodgers. First pitch is set for 7:05 from Camden Yards.