As the Tampa Bay Rays completed their walk-off win about three hours before the first pitch between the Orioles and Guardians I felt good about the chances of the magic number to decrease anyway. The Guardians are not a great team and Grayson Rodriguez was on the mound for the Orioles.
Things don’t always go as planned. Rodriguez struggled and exited the game after just five innings, having allowed two runs. It was another short inning by a starting pitcher, which has started to become a trend. In the last turn through the rotation, only Kyle Bradish has gone more than five innings. He went six. The troubles go back even further than that, with just four starts over five innings since September 10th. That’ll get a bullpen overworked in a hurry.
The offense was sparse in this game, another problem that sometimes rears its head. A rookie starter and a bevy of relief pitchers held the Orioles in check through seven innings. And when they did tie the game in the eighth, the beleaguered bullpen gave it back immediately.
There was a whole lot of fail in this game. It’s hard to do anything but just try and forget it as quickly as possible and hope that the team can bounce back tomorrow and get right back to chipping away at that magic number.
Guardians starting pitcher Hunter Gaddis retired the first eight Orioles he faced before issuing back-to-back walks to Jordan Westburg and Gunnar Henderson in the third inning. Adley Rutschman followed with the game’s first hit, a line drive that ricocheted off of Gaddis’s leg to load the bases. But Anthony Santander hit a harmless fly ball to center to end the inning.
Gaddis came out after three innings but the parade of relievers picked up right where he left off for the next four innings. Other than a Rutschman double in the sixth inning and an infield hit from Aaron Hicks in the seventh, the Orioles offense was missing in action. It was discouraging.
As for Grayson, he struggled without his best stuff tonight but for four innings kept the Guardians off the board. He had just one clean inning when he struck out the side in the fourth. He had a hard time putting away batters as the Guardians fouled off an incredible 37 pitches against him. He used a double play ball to get out of trouble in the third inning, but couldn’t pull off another Houdini act in the fifth.
Bo Naylor walked to start the fifth inning and then two one-out singles led to a 1-0 lead. One batter later a sac fly gave the Guardians a 2-0 lead that would last until the eighth.
Rodriguez did not return after the fifth inning, replaced by DL Hall. Hall had an impressive outing, perfect through 1.1 innings. Jorge López worked around an infield hit for two-thirds scoreless. Those two held the line long enough for the Orioles to tie the game. The rest of the relief corps was not so fortunate.
Finally, in the eighth inning, the offense put together a bit of a rally. It was enough to give us hope but not enough to get the win. Pinch-hitter Heston Kjerstad singled and was replaced on the bases by Ramón Urías.
That brought Rutschman to the plate, who had a great night. He launched his second double of the game off of the left field wall. Urías landed at third. He got some criticism from the FOX broadcasters for not scoring, but I didn’t mind. Getting thrown out wouldn’t have helped anyone and he did score eventually.
Anthony Santander knocked Urías in with a single, then a clutch Ryan O’Hearn hit tied the game. That was all they’d get, and it was in the bottom of the eighth that all hell broke loose.
Cionel Pérez started the bottom of the eighth inning and it did not go well. Pérez has been great of late but has also pitched a lot, including two games in the Astros series and two games in the Rays series. He clearly did not have it from the start in this game and he loaded the bases on a HBP, a walk, and a single.
He was replaced by Jacob Webb, who allowed all three runners to score. He walked in a run on the first batter he saw and a second run scored on a pop-up to shallow right that Adam Frazier was unable to capture in an over-the-shoulder basket catch. Right fielder Aaron Hicks probably should have gotten to it. His defense out there leaves something to be desired.
The third run scored on a ground-out, making the score 5-2, and Mike Baumann replaced Webb. He got a fly ball out to end the inning and I hoped that the Vulture would live up to his nickname and pick up a win after another Orioles comeback. It didn’t work out that way.
The offense tried to rally. They put two on with no outs but Emmanuel Clase struck out Frazier and Urías, then Gunnar Henderson flew out to end the game.
This was a dumb, ugly loss. I’m hopeful the Orioles can bounce back tomorrow and grab the first win of the series. If they’re looking for advice, here’s mine: Start pitching and hitting better.