The Orioles arrived in Chicago fresh off a 5-1 homestand and a series win against the Blue Jays. This made some people, and by some I mean me, think that the Cubs wouldn’t pose too much of an obstacle. I never assume a game is a win, but losing two in a row to the fourth-place team in the NL Central wasn’t really on my radar. But that’s just what happened today.
Kyle Gibson took the loss for the Orioles today, but his performance was not what kept the team from winning. He gave up just three hits in six innings! Sure, it wasn’t his finest game, but it was a very Kyle Gibson start. The offense just couldn’t score.
Gibson retired the first seventh batters that he faced, putting up 1-2-3 first and second innings and getting a groundout from the first batter he saw in the third. The second batter of the third inning was Yan Gomes, and Gibson struck him out. But! James McCann couldn’t hold on to the third strike and Gomes hustled down to first. It was ruled a wild pitch.
The next batter hit the ball back to Gibson and he fired to second base to nab Gomes on the fielder’s choice. That would have been the third out, but alas. Gibson walked Mike Tauchman, then gave up a double to Nico Hoerner. The ball split the outfielders in left-center and both runners scored.
The way the Orioles looked against Cubs’ starter Justin Steele, those two runs seemed like they’d be enough. They almost were, but not quite. Steele had to work out of a couple jams. In the second inning, Gunnar Henderson walked and James McCann reached on a deep infield single, but Jorge Mateo couldn’t capitalize. In the fourth, Steele worked around singles from Henderson and Aaron Hicks.
But in the fifth, Steele finally cracked. He got two quick outs before Austin Hays singled. Adley Rutschman followed and did not let us down. He took a 1-2 slider out to the bleachers. Just like that, it was a tie game. Adley is great.
Unfortunately, the tie only held for a few minutes. The pesky Yan Gomes doubled to start the bottom of the fifth and eventually came in on a sac fly. That untied the game and the Cubs took a 3-2 lead.
Steele came out of the game after five innings, which gave me a bit of hope. And while things got interesting for the Orioles in the sixth, they weren’t able to score. Relief pitcher Julian Merryweather came in, and like most relief pitchers these days he throws very hard. He got Henderson swinging on a 100 mph strike and induced a groundout from Ramón Urías.
Aaron Hicks walked to extend the inning and Brandon Hyde sent out Ryan O’Hearn to pinch hit for catcher James McCann. O’Hearn singled to put two runners on and Hyde elected to let Jorge Mateo hit for himself. I don’t know, it seems like if you’re willing to pull your catcher for a pinch hitter when your other catcher is DH’ing, it would be worth going all in and pinch-hitting for Mateo as well.
But Mateo did hit for himself and he flew out. The most frustrating thing about that showed up when the Orioles took the field for the bottom of the sixth. Because Rutschman had to move to catcher, the Orioles lost their DH. So Hyde pulled a double switch and removed Mateo so that the pitcher could slot into his place in the batting order. If you know you’re losing Mateo in the field, pinch hit! Ugh.
After Gibson pitched a scoreless sixth inning, the Cubs sent another pitcher out for the seventh. Mark Leiter, Jr. retired Joey Ortiz but walked Hays singled and Rutschman walked to get a rally brewing. Watching those two back-to-back in the lineup sure is fun, isn’t it? Unfortunately, the rest of the inning wasn’t as fun.
Anthony Santander came to bat and took a 1-1 pitch for a strike that just touched the low-outside corner. Fair enough. But then the next pitch was even lower and even further outside. It appeared to be completely out of the strike zone but home place umpire CB Bucknor punched out Santander with relish. Santander had words for him but the damage was done. Henderson grounded out to end the top half of the inning.
Bryan Baker replaced Gibson after six innings and pitched a clean inning, though he was also the recipient of a bad strike three call from Bucknor.
Danny Coulombe worked around an Anthony Santander aided double by Hoerner in the eighth. Santander looked like he could get to the ball but appeared to pull up short as the ball bounced in fair territory and up into the stands. Hoerner was stranded, thankfully, not that it would have mattered because the Orioles had no more runs in them.
The delightfully named Adbert Alzolay came in to close things out for the Cubs, and that’s just what he did. Adam Frazier, pinch-hitting for the pitcher, struck out. Josh Lester, pinch-hitting for Joey Ortiz, struck out. And Austin Hays, batting for himself, walked. There was a crew chief review because Bucknor lost track of the count, which weirdly just happened to Hays a week or so ago.
Rustchman stepped to the plate, but he was not able to replicate his earlier home run. He grounded out to second base to end the game. Orioles lose the game 3-2 and clinch a losing series as well. Tomorrow at 1:05 they will attempt to avoid their first sweep of the season.