Heading into Wednesday’s game against the Blue Jays, there was an easy formula for the Orioles to follow for success. Jays starter José Berríos, while successful this season, entered with an .805 OPS against left-handed batters. The O’s stacked the lineup with seven batters who were able to bat left-handed. It did not help them any. Berríos carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning and a shutout into the eighth. The Orioles did manage to get the go-ahead run to the plate with two outs in the ninth inning but lost, 3-1.
If you want to take some silver lining out of the loss, it’s that Kyle Bradish dodged what had been kind of an AL East curse in his career to date. That included two previous starts this year in which he allowed 11 runs across 7.1 innings. Bradish nearly matched that inning total just in tonight’s start, as he pitched seven innings where the only damage he allowed was a solo home run to the pesky George Springer. For most of the game, it looked like this home run, Springer’s tenth of the season, might be the game’s only run scored.
The outing lowered Bradish’s ERA for the season to 3.90. It was an odd one, as he struck out only one Jays batter, but he also didn’t issue any free passes. The Jays had just four hits against Bradish, so on this night, the BABIP gods were on his side. He is the losing pitcher nonetheless, because the rules for doling out pitcher wins and losses do not always result in a just outcome.
One big problem for Bradish is just that he was going against Berríos on a night where Berríos was, for whatever reason, dominant. The Jays starter had a good game plan for the Orioles, or they had a bad game plan for him, or both. It wasn’t even a terribly high-drama no-hitter-in-progress, as there was just one Orioles batted ball that Statcast recorded as having an expected batting average above .500 through the six no-hit innings.
The first four innings were perfect for Berríos, and were apparently the most efficient in terms of pitches thrown in his whole career. The results were awfully sad. At least Adley Rutschman ended the no-hitter with a leadoff single in the seventh inning. The Orioles did not string together any more hits to score him. Berríos continued to roll.
With 98 pitches thrown after seven, Bradish exited the game. Danny Coulombe entered, looking to preserve the 1-0 lead. He failed. The lefty’s first batter - lefty Kevin Kiermaier - hit a crummy infield chopper that happened to find its way into no man’s land for an infield hit. How annoyingly typical. Kiermaier quickly stole second base, an annoyingly common occurrence against the O’s this season. Coulombe attempted to make a throw to second base to hold Kiermaier and balked in the process. Come on, man. You can’t just be up there doing a balk like that.
About all we can say is that the balk didn’t end up mattering, because the batter, Whit Merrifield, hit a ground rule double. Kiermaier would have scored from second too, providing the Jays a second run. Coulombe failed to hold Merrifield at second, allowing him to steal third easily. Double come on, man! Then he walked Santiago Espinal. If you’re wondering, is Espinal the kind of guy it’s okay to walk? The answer is no. He brought a .611 OPS into the game. Coulombe was lifted from the game without retiring a batter. He’s been good this year but was bad tonight.
Mike Baumann entered after Coulombe, and his defense nudged him a long way towards escaping the inning with no further damage. Springer grounded a ball at drawn-in shortstop Gunnar Henderson. The rookie froze the runner at third, then threw to second for an out there. Merrifield tried to run home anyway but second baseman Adam Frazier was not asleep and threw to the plate for an easy out.
Baumann promptly ruined this by serving a double to Bo Bichette, which allowed Springer to score from first. That run is charged to Coulombe since the runner only reached base on a fielder’s choice, so Springer still counted as Coulombe’s guy. Baumann walked Daulton Varsho before getting the third out.
In the bottom of the eighth, the Orioles finally got two hits in the same inning against Berríos. Frazier hit a one-out single and Ramón Urías added another. Could they make anything happen with this two-out rally? Alas, no. Urías’s hit chased Berríos from the game, with the Jays bringing in lefty Tim Mayza to face the lefty Henderson. Gunnar hit a hard grounder that Bichette fielded cleanly and threw to first. Gunnar never gave up on it and was only beaten by the throw by less than a half-step. The inning was over.
They made it interesting again in the ninth too, but only after getting two outs. Ryan O’Hearn and Austin Hays delivered singles to bring the tying run to the plate. Aaron Hicks hit a third straight single to continue his on-base streak as an Oriole to 12, and more importantly for this game, score the first Orioles run. Hicks was on base as the tying run, bringing Frazier to the plate as the potential winning run.
Frazier responded with an uncommon strikeout. Game over, man. Game over. The Orioles five-game winning streak was snapped before they could tie the season high of six. Despite Bradish’s best efforts, they never had all that much of a chance tonight. That’s the way it goes sometimes. At 42-25, the O’s are merely on a 102-win pace. Whether they lose ground to the Rays and Yankees depends on the outcome of games that are not over as I am writing this recap.
Quite often this season, the Orioles have responded to annoying losses by picking up wins the next game. That’s a big part of why they’re 42-25. Can they do this in Thursday afternoon’s series finale? It’ll be their best starting pitcher to date, Tyler Wells, trying to pitch them towards victory in the 1:05 game. Scheduled for the Jays is Yusei Kikuchi, who has allowed 18 home runs in 66.1 innings this year.