The Orioles went 1-12 with runners in scoring position on the way to a loss. It was even worse than it sounds.
The April 2022 Orioles who could not hit with scoring position to save their lives made an unwelcome return on Friday night in the team’s opener of a three-game set against the Detroit Tigers. They had chances early and they had chances late and none of it helped them a bit. When all was said and done, the Orioles were in the loss column by a 4-2 score.
In the first inning of the game, the Orioles got their first two men on base and did not score. This included, egregiously, a double steal by Cedric Mullins and Jorge Mateo that put two men in scoring position as Anthony Santander had a 3-1 count. In the second inning, the Orioles got two men on base with one out and did not score. Top of the order, middle of the order, bottom of the order, it didn’t matter. The critical game-breaking hit eluded everyone.
For four innings after this, the team did not have any kind of scoring chances to speak of. You could, if you were feeling generous, credit former Orioles farmhand and current Tiger Eduardo Rodriguez for pitching well once he got into jams. The Tigers rode him for 6.2 innings, with five hits and four walks not exactly scattered but not doing any damage either. Rodriguez walked #8 hitter Robinson Chirinos and #9 hitter Chris Owings with two outs and that was the end of his night.
Detroit summoned reliever Andrew “Don’t Go” Chafin “Waterfalls” as the O’s lineup turned back over to Mullins. They finally got a hit with runners in scoring position! Regrettably for the Orioles, this was an infield hit that Mullins barely beat out to first base, and it still did not score a run. Oh, how typical. Presented with the bases loaded, Mateo struck out on three pitches.
One way to get around woes with runners in scoring position is just to get solo home runs. This was the plan the O’s were able to put into place at last in the eighth. Detroit’s reliever Jacob Barnes was welcomed to the game by Trey Mancini hitting a home run into the left field corner on the first pitch. He threw a second pitch to Anthony Santander, who blasted a home run into right-center field. In practically the blink of an eye, what had been a 4-0 deficit for the O’s was cut in half. Barnes walked Tyler Nevin and he was out of there.
The only thing this amounted to for the Orioles was another scoring chance to blow. They were gifted a free runner when a Bannon ground ball ate up Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario, for two on and one out. Chirinos struck out against Alex Lange for the second out. Owings sensibly decided “I’m not hitting anything this guy throws, might as well see if he won’t throw any in the strike zone.” And Lange didn’t! The bases were loaded with two out and the lineup turned over to Mullins once again.
The good news is that in a six-pitch at-bat, Mullins took four pitches that were not in the strike zone. The bad news is that one of those pitches was called a strike. Mullins did work a 3-1 count, seemed to determine he would not be thrown a fastball, and took the fastball right down the middle. With a full count, Lange threw another fastball down the middle. Mullins popped it up and the ducks were left on the pond.
Friends, I wish this was the end of the litany of failed Orioles chances on Friday night. It was not. Detroit summoned closer Gregory Soto for the ninth. Soto was almost totally out of control. He hit Mateo, then hit Mancini, putting the tying run on base with no one out! Santander struck out, then Soto walked Tyler Nevin. With one out, the tying run was in scoring position and the go-ahead run was on base. What a chance!
Soto had nothing, so the Tigers turned to your favorite reliever whose name frequently appears after the phrase “stock options” and mine, Will Vest. Pinch hitter Ramón Urías struck out. Bannon struck out. Game over, man. Game over. In the final accounting, the Orioles were 1-12 with runners in scoring position and they left 14 men on base. And again, crucially, the one hit they got with RISP still did not score a run.
Not much has been said of the Orioles pitching that gave up four runs. That’s because Jordan Lyles was close to the kind of unremarkably bad that the Orioles signed him to be. I say “close” because Lyles had only allowed one run through five innings, and the one run really ought not to have scored. Lyles walked Detroit’s Robbie Grossman with one out. One forceout later and a different runner was on first base for the venerable Miguel Cabrera with two outs.
Cabrera hit a line drive that split the gap between right and center. Mullins got a glove on the ball but could not field it cleanly, so the ball bounced to the wall. Mullins then bumbled the pickup. The runner scored, Cabrera reached second base. The homer Tigers scorer recorded none of Mullins’s antics in the official record, giving Cabrera a double that put him past Barry Bonds for 17th place on the career list, as well as the 1,815th RBI of his career, which did not pass anyone on the list. At the time, it only felt like this run would be enough to beat the Orioles by its lonesome.
Lyles was on the wrong end of Cabrera moving up on a different list later. He left the wrong pitch in the wrong place with one out in the sixth inning and Cabrera hit his 504th homer of his career, tying him with Orioles Hall of Famer Eddie Murray for 27th place. It must be fun to have a guy on your favorite moving up good career leaderboards.
After Cabrera, Lyles struck out Candelario. He was one out away from a quality start. That is really all the Orioles want from Lyles. Eat innings and be mediocre. He just could not get that last out. Former Oriole Jonathan Schoop rekindled the rally with a single; he scored when Detroit’s Willi Castro doubled into the right field corner, plating the third Tigers run.
Lyles got recent #1 pick Spencer Torkelson to hit a ground ball, a hard grounder that was within reach of Bannon at third base. … almost within reach of Bannon at third base. Bannon fell into the classic trap articulated famously by Skee-Lo in 1995. He was not a little bit taller. The ball bounced off his glove as he dove for it. Castro scored the fourth Tigers run, not that they needed it. Whether Bannon is a baller, or whether he has a girl who looks good (he could call her), I cannot say from my own knowledge at this time.
When this game looked like a lost cause as the O’s trailed 4-0 heading into the seventh, they turned to recent callup Denyi Reyes (pronounced Den-jee) to soak up potential garbage time. Look at his line in the box score and it looks pretty good: No hits, no walks, two strikeouts in two innings. That’s a good way to make a major league debut. The 25-year-old Reyes will always have that going for him.
Briefly, Reyes’s ERA was not zero, as Javier Báez hit a foul ball that was initially ruled a home run. The four umpires huddled and correctly assessed it was foul, a judgment that survived a replay review.
It is dumb that the Orioles lost to the 9-23 Tigers in such a way that really deflates any good feelings you might have built up over the last couple of weeks. Hopefully they don’t do this again tomorrow. It’s a 4:10 game in Detroit, with Bruce Zimmermann and Michael Pineda set as the starting pitchers. I would like the Orioles to get as many men on base and then do better once they’re there. Thank you, good night.