Things were going pretty well for the Orioles. Then the bullpen showed up.
Going into today’s game, my main question was a two-parter: Would the Orioles give up at least 10 runs again and would the bullpen have another late inning meltdown? Secondary to that question was, will Jorge López be able to get through five innings for a second straight game?
No, the Orioles didn’t give up 10 runs. They gave up nine which is somehow even more annoying. Yes, the bullpen fell apart. Cole Sulser, Paul Fry, and Dillon Tate combined to give up seven runs in two innings to blow the game. And yes, López got through the fifth inning, but by the time the game was over I doubt anyone was feeling very good about that.
The end result? A 9-6 Orioles loss and a series sweep at the hands of the Tampa Bay Rays. The starting pitcher did his job. The offense did its job. They had a few errors on the bases, but scoring six runs against the best team in the American League is a success in my book.
Let’s start with López. His fifth-inning troubles are well documented. He didn’t complete five innings once in five July starts, despite starting the fifth inning four times. But in his last start against the Yankees on August 2nd, he pitched six innings. Could he do it again? Yes, he could!
First, though, he had to get through the first four innings to have a chance at five. He sailed through the first two innings with ease, but things got dicey in the third, but López got out with just one run allowed.
With one out, Francisco Mejia hit a fly ball to deep right field. Anthony Santander made a valiant leap but the ball was just out of his grasp. It was close enough that I was disappointed that he didn’t make the catch, but it really would have been incredible.
Mejia landed on third base with a triple and came in to score on a single from Brandon Lowe. With two outs, Nelson Cruz came to the plate and if you imagined a game-tying home run, you weren’t alone. But López struck Cruz out for the second time of the day.
Another run scored for the Rays courtesy of a leadoff homer by Austin Meadows, but López got the next three batters. That brings us to the always scary fifth inning.
López got the first out on a hard liner, but then walked Mejia to make things dicey. But he worked around that walk to finish the inning. Brandon Lowe hit a very hard ball to center but Cedric Mullins had no trouble catching it for the out. One ground ball by Choi later and he had done it. Five innings complete!
But wait, there’s more! López returned to the field for the sixth inning. Brandon Hyde sent him out for one more, and López was up to the task. As much of a nail biter was the fifth inning, the sixth was the opposite. He needed just 10 pitches to get three groundouts. And with that, his day was finally finished. His final pitching line was: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K.
The six-inning start by López will just be a footnote to this very frustrating game, but if he can continue to build in this very recent success, that would be a win for the Orioles.
López left the game with the Orioles holding a 5-2 lead over the Rays. Rays’ starter Michael Wacha had his troubles today, even with the Orioles helping him out on the bases a few times.
Leading off the bottom of the first inning, Mullins sent the first pitch he saw into the flag court to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead. The home run was the 20th of the year for Mullins. Combine that with his 21 stolen bases, and the Orioles have a new member of the 20/20 club. Congrats, Ced! Now let’s see 30/30!
The first out on base paths came shortly after that. With one out, Trey Mancini reached on an error, then inexplicably tried to get to third base when Anthony Santander blooped a ball into left field. He was thrown out by a mile. Maikel Franco followed Santander with a single of his own, but both runners were left stranded.
The second inning featured fun on the bases. Jorge Mateo was hit by a pitch, then stole second base, then came in to score on a single that Richie Martin just managed to poke through the right side of the infield. This new guy is pretty fast.
Catcher Austin Wynns followed Martin with a single of his own, with Martin scooting over to third. They looked set up for a huge inning, but Mullins hit a line drive to second base and Wynns was doubled off. I don’t assign much blame to Wynns for not getting back, but it’s still frustrating.
Austin Hays picked up his teammates with an RBI single to make the score 3-0, but Mancini struck out to end the inning. Hays also picked up an RBI in the fourth inning that picked up a teammate. Martin had gotten thrown out trying to steal second, so he wasn’t on base for Wynns’s double. But Hays singled to score Wynns. Good job, Austin!
Santander started off the third inning and said to heck with small ball, and launched a home run to center. It landed 422 feet away.
The Orioles didn’t get on the board again until the ninth, when the game was all but out of hand. Mullins was HBP and came around to score on a double by Santander. It was a three-hit day for Santander.
First up in relief for the Orioles was Sulser, who got the first two batters but then gave up a home run to Brett Phillips. Look, Brett Phillips seems like a really fun guy and I have enjoyed his antics ever since he got that hit in the World Series and ran around with airplane arms. But I really am not a fan of my team giving up home runs to him. But more on that later!
Sulser’s performance was an absolute dream compared to Paul Fry. Fry started the eighth inning an loaded the bases with no outs. After an infield pop up, Fry then walked in Rays’ fourth run, cutting the score to 5-4. He was replaced by Dillon Tate, who allowed the tying run to score on a sacrifice fly. He just needed one more out to finish the inning with the game in a 5-5 tie. Instead he re-walked the bases loaded for the previously mentioned Phillips.
Instead of getting the #8 hitter in the lineup for the final out of the inning, Dillon Tate gave up a go-ahead grand slam to Phillips. The Orioles bullpen, ladies and gentlemen!
And that was that, for the most part. Congrats to Dusten Knight for pitching a scoreless ninth inning.
Orioles lose, 9-6. Tomorrow is an off day before the Tigers get to town for a three-game series. Maybe the bullpen won’t give up 22 runs in three games the way they did with the Rays.
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