The Baltimore Orioles almost made history this afternoon against Tampa at Camden Yards. But not the right type of history. They were almost on it’s wrong side, as Tampa took a combined perfect game into the ninth inning. There have been combined no-hitters (including one in Oriole history), but never a combined perfect game.
And the sad thing is that the Orioles didn’t pitch poorly per se in this series finale against Tampa. Tom Eschelman was called up from the minors to make the start, and with a couple of exceptions he kept a lineup that scored 29 runs against the Orioles over three games at bay. Eschelman’s line: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 7 K.
Tampa would take a 1-0 lead in the second on a sac fly-RBI by Wendell. Eschelman would also surrender a solo homer to Meadows in the third, and a two-run homer to Brosseau in the sixth.
But the main story of the game was the almost perfect game. Ryne Stanek served as Tampa’s opener, and pitched two perfect innings. He then exited, and Ryan Yarbrough took over. And he almost went the distance. I find it interesting that there had never been a combined perfect game. It needless to say, the final innings and outs were packed full of drama.
Luckily for the Orioles, the drama surrounding the perfect game ended early in the last of the ninth. Hanser Alberto stroked a base hit on the first pitch of the inning, breaking up the perfecto. Perhaps the most unlikely part of the entire thing was that Alberto got his base hit against the shift. Go figure!
But it didn’t end there. The Orioles attempted to rally. Anthony Santander‘s RBI-single cut the lead to 4-1. The Birds would end up with the tying run at the plate – this in a game where they almost got perfecto’d. But Mancini struck out, and the game ended in a 4-1 Tampa victory.
It’s also important to note; the Orioles easily could have thrown down a bunt to attempt to break up the perfect game. However that works against one of the biggest unwritten codes in baseball. Nobody tried to bunt, nobody tried to lean into a pitch, and nobody attempted to do anything on the shady side. While many fans will skoff at this and say that it’s unimportant in a losing effort, it speaks to the Orioles’ sense of honor. So there’s that.