As a general rule, there is no good reason for an MLB team to lose a game in which it scores six runs. This is the fate that befell the Orioles on Saturday afternoon. The reason for this is not a surprise after the early weeks of the baseball season, because this is a team whose greatest talent up to this point has been in giving up runs. They blew four leads against the White Sox, including one in extra innings, on the way to losing a 7-6 walkoff.
This was a stupid game almost from start to finish. Some tragicomic ineptitude must be involved in losing a game in which your team draws ten walks and racks up eleven base hits. This was also part of the Orioles fate on Saturday afternoon, because in spite of all of those runners, they went 1-14 in at-bats with runners in scoring position. 1-14!
Here was the path to the stupid ending: The Orioles entered the bottom of the tenth inning with a 6-5 lead after scoring their Manfred Man. Jorge Mateo moved the zombie runner to third base with a sacrifice bunt. Cedric Mullins followed with a walk, bringing up recently quite-clutch Adley Rutschman. This one wasn’t Adley’s day; he’d already grounded into a double play twice and hit what could have been a third, except he was able to leg it out thanks to a bit of a casual relay throw from the White Sox. The go-ahead run scored.
That wasn’t the stupid part, of course. The stupid part was in the bottom half of the inning, when fresh reliever Logan Gillaspie, pitching in this spot presumably only because Félix Bautista had pitched the previous two days, was shredded by fortune and by not being able to pitch well. Or maybe he was just cursed because the Chicago public address announcer got confused by everyone wearing #42 for Jackie Robinson Day and announced Gillaspie as Austin Voth.
The first pitch that Gillaspie threw in the game was sliced down the left field line by Yasmani Grandal. Left fielder Austin Hays, shaded towards left center, pulled up in his chase for the ball as if he assumed the ball would land foul. The ball did end up in foul territory but only after bouncing just fair. Chicago’s Manfred Man scored easily and Grandal was in scoring position with a double.
Ought Hays to have caught this ball? Perhaps I am being unfair in thinking yes. Diving and the ball getting past him could have ended worse. Still, he certainly ought not to have given up the effort so soon.
The rest is pretty much just Gillaspie’s fault. Jake Burger smacked a hard line drive to left that got to Hays too quickly to score the man on second. If you want to be fair to Gillaspie, he threw what was strike three to Burger but the umpire didn’t call it. The umpire had nothing to do with Oscar Colas driving the first pitch he saw over the head of Anthony Santander, who had to play shallow because there would be no chance to throw out the winning run on any deep fly ball anyway. So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good bye.
The game was stupid at the beginning too. The first two Orioles batters, Mullins and Rutschman, reached base. Two on, none out is always promising. Mullins got to third base as Ryan Mountcastle lined out to right, giving Mullins the chance to tag. Gifted the chance at an RBI with a quality ball in play, Santander struck out. As it tends to go, only with two outs did the Orioles get the fly ball that would have scored the run, and Hays simply ended the inning.
The bottom of the first began with Andrew Benintendi hitting a comebacker towards the mound. Kyle Gibson had some catlike reflexes to pounce on this ball and get a barehand grab on it. His throw to first, unfortunately, sailed wide of Mountcastle, took some unlucky bounces off the fence, and led to Benintendi getting to third base. This non-catch probably wasn’t Mountcastle’s fault at all, but there were three later plays where he failed to pick balls at first base that should have been catchable.
Amazingly, Gibson was able to keep the Sox off the board in that first inning even after that bad throw and bad luck. It wasn’t until the top of the third inning that anyone scored. Jorge Mateo led off that inning with his third home run of the year. This inning could have had more scoring, since Mullins followed with a double and stole third base with one out, but that RISP futility showed up again. Mountcastle struck out and Santander grounded out. Inning over.
The lead did not last for too long. You can’t expect any pitcher, let alone Gibson, to be perfect, and he wasn’t. The Sox got a run in each of the fourth and fifth innings. If things stayed there, we could be happy about his outing, but they didn’t. The sixth inning - which saw the Orioles take a short-lived 4-2 lead in the top half - proved to be too much for Gibson to conquer, and he was bounced from the game after allowing a game-tying two-run home run to Burger, who is sure on a heater in this series.
Gibson’s final line: four runs on seven hits and two walks in five innings. That’s not gonna do it. In fairness to Gibson, he’d pitched well in his first three games and isn’t part of the reason why the starting rotation has had problems so far.
For the final four innings of regulation plus the one extra inning, the question was whose bullpen would be worse. The Sox bullpen entered this game with a 7.71 ERA, and they gave up a run to the O’s in each of the seventh and tenth innings.
It just wasn’t enough. Orioles relievers gave them right back. A 5-4 lead delivered by Ryan O’Hearn taking a bases loaded walk - an O’Hearned lead, if you will - did not survive the bottom of the seventh; Danny Coulombe’s 0.00 ERA is no more after one of those failed Mountcastle picks put a runner on base that Bryan Baker allowed to score.
The Orioles again had two men on with none out in the top of the ninth. A prime opportunity. However, Adam Frazier was for some reason asked to try to lay down a sacrifice bunt, which he proved unable to do. Frazier struck out. Had he gotten a runner to third, that man might have scored on Gunnar Henderson’s lineout to left. It did not. Terrin Vavra struck out to complete the circle of failure. The tenth inning played out as already described.
One possible lasting consequence from this game: Ramón Urías was hit in the helmet by a pitch in the seventh inning. He came out of the game immediately, which is how Henderson ended up in it. Urías is now in concussion protocol, the Orioles said after the game.
This could have been a fun one. Mateo and Santander homered. Mateo had three hits and each of Santander, Hays, and Mullins had two. Until the tenth inning, the Orioles bullpen tossed 3.2 innings with only one run allowed. Yennier Canó was impressive in a scoreless ninth after getting clutch outs on Friday night as well. It could have been fun. In the end, it wasn’t. The Orioles are now 8-7.
This is the game that it would have been nice for the Orioles to win, because waiting in Sunday’s 2:10 Eastern finale is 2022 AL Cy Young runner-up Dylan Cease. So far in 2023, Cease is pitching like he’s going to be in the Cy Young mix again. Grayson Rodriguez is set to make his third start for the Orioles, one which depending on the Orioles plans for him could determine whether he stays or goes upon Kyle Bradish’s pending return from the injured list.