Baltimore Orioles: Defeat from the jaws of victory

You had to believe that the baseball God’s were smiling on the Baltimore Orioles for once when Chris Davis smacked a three-run homer to give the Birds the lead in the last of the eighth. It felt like the type of death blow that AL East teams can often shove in your face, and furthermore all the Orioles had to do was record three outs to win the game. But they forgot one thing; they were playing baseball’s newest version of the comeback kids who refuse to lose.

Alex Cobb got the start for the Orioles last night, and with somewhat mixed results. Cobb’s line: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 1 K. That stat line doesn’t look great, and it isn’t. But Cobb recorded some quick outs in his outing. He was pitching-to-contact – and it just so happened that Seattle was all about making contact.

The Orioles took an early 2-0 lead off of another Danny Valencia home run in the first inning – this one of the two-run variety. But in a harbinger which pointed to the end of the game, Seattle inched back in with a second inning solo blast by Healy. One inning later Span’s RBI-single tied the game at two. Seattle’s the type of team that you really have to put away good in order to beat. But they’re also the type of team that refuses to be put away. Kind of a catch-22.

The Orioles did get the lead back, however. Mark Trumbo‘s RBI-single put them ahead 3-2. A second run scored on an errant throw, and Trumbo took second. When the smoke cleared, it was 4-2. Not only that, but the Orioles caught Seattle in a mistake. Surely since the Orioles can’t seem to shake their mistakes, Seattle must be the same – right? That mistake must stick in the backs of their heads and make them crazy…they’re only human, right?

That’s the thing about teams like Seattle. They put things like that out of their minds fast. Whereas the Orioles would probably let a little thing like that linger in the backs of their minds for the rest of the game, Seattle shook it off quickly. Healy’s sac fly-RBI in the fifth cut the lead to one, and Zunino’s two-RBI single later in the inning gave them a 5-4 lead.

Interestingly, Buck Showalter walked Gamel to get to Zunino – who had been struggling at the plate. It was the smart move with two outs, even though it loaded the bases. Yet it backfired. This isn’t a reflection of Showalter, who mind you is a brilliant manager. As I said, walking Gamel was the smart thing to do from a baseball perspective. However it was also a look back at the 2014 ALCS in which the Orioles “wheeled and dealed,” while the opponent (Kansas City in that case) just sat back and literally did nothing. They let the Orioles make the moves. And while all of those moves showed baseball savoir faire, they didn’t work. Point being, is it better to just let the game develop as opposed to wheeling and dealing your way through games with IBB’s, matching up, etc?

With Seattle still leading 5-4, Davis’ aforementioned homer gave the O’s a 7-5 lead. And it was a blast, folks. The only question was whether it would stay fair. It curved around to the left of the foul pole, and landed well past the right field grandstand onto Eutaw Street. Davis actually had a good night at the plate (and a great night in the field), producing a base hit against the shift earlier in the game. But that home run was as big as they come…

…until it wasn’t. With Britton on for the save, surely this game was in the bag, right? It certainly looked that way. That is until Seager’s two-run homer tied the game at seven. There was a sense of are you kidding me? written on the face of almost everyone in the ballpark. Usually you get a dramatic home run like what Davis produced in the end of a game and it’s over. Not with Seattle. It’s one thing to play until the last out. It’s another to literally know that you’re going to win regardless of what the opponent does.

And sure enough, Span’s sac fly-RBI in the 11th won it for Seattle. I don’t want to say that this type of game is typical for the Orioles, although they once again let an opponent take what was theirs. But in reality it was typical of this Seattle team. This is how they win games. They aren’t flashy or powerful. They probably wouldn’t have smacked that three-run homer like Chris Davis did. But they find one small opening to win a game, and they find a way to leap through it.

The series concludes this afternoon at Camden Yards. The Orioles will start Jimmy Yacabonis, and he’ll be opposed by Seattle’s Mike Leake. Game time is set for just after 3 PM.

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