Written by Paul Folkemer
The Orioles suffered their 15th consecutive loss in Toronto, once again giving away a winnable game in a 6-5, 11-inning decision. Adam Lind’s walkoff homer against Koji Uehara put a cap on a game marred by early O’s defensive mistakes and a shocking lack of ability to hit with runners in scoring position. The Birds battled back from an early three-run deficit to tie the game in the eighth, but missed ample chances to pull ahead before ultimately taking a familiar defeat.
Hey, do you remember the last time the Orioles won a game at the ballpark formerly known as Skydome? Neither do I. The O’s were 0-for-2010 at the Blue Jays’ home park. And to clarify, I mean that the O’s didn’t have any wins there in the 2010 season, not that the O’s have lost their last 2,010 games. Even the Orioles aren’t that bad....yet. They are bad enough, however, to lose 14 games in a row at Rogers Centre, having not won since August 7, 2009. Something about this ballpark, and this team, gives the O’s the heebie-jeebies. Maybe they just don’t like Canada.
Early on, this was shaping up to be another lackluster, lifeless defeat. In the first six innings, almost nothing went right for the Orioles. Chris Jakubauskas, making his second start after his surprising five shutout frames the first time around, pitched more like you might expect a journeyman spot starter to pitch. Which is to say: not well. He gave up a first-inning run on a Jose Bautista walk followed by an Adam Lind RBI double to right. The O’s had a chance at nailing Bautista at the plate, but cutoff man Derrek Lee’s throw home was off target.
Bad pitching and defense combined again in the bottom of the third, this time with some bad luck mixed in. After a leadoff single by Yunel Escobar, ex-Oriole Corey Patterson laid down a bunt. Second baseman Robert Andino made an impressive play to field it and fired to first...but Patterson was ruled safe by umpire Jerry Layne, even though replays showed the ball beat him to the bag. With two on, Bautista hit a bouncer to third and Mark Reynolds tried to start an around-the-horn double play by firing to second, but Andino-- trying to elude the sliding Patterson-- fired a bad offline relay to first that sailed into foul territory. Escobar scored on the botched double play, the second lousy throw by Andino in the last three games.
Jakubauskas got out of the 26-pitch inning without further damage, but he was tagged for two more runs in the fourth. A single and a hit batsman set up Escobar, who ripped an RBI single. A Patterson RBI groundout then plated the Blue Jays’ fourth run. Jakubauskas ultimately worked 5 1/3 innings, giving up four runs, seven hits, and four walks, throwing 101 pitches. The damage might have been worse, but Mike Gonzalez bailed him out of a bases-loaded jam in the sixth.
Meanwhile, the Orioles’ offense was simply putrid, wasting one chance after another to score against mediocre Jays starter Carlos Villanueva. J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis led off the game with singles, but Markakis turned too far past first base on his hit and got tagged out after a rundown. Ah, good old Orioles and their baserunning blungers. How I’ve missed them. Hardy scored on an Adam Jones sac fly, but a chance of a further rally was wasted.
Then the O’s just forgot how to hit with runners in scoring position. Hardy doubled and Markakis walked with one out in the third, only for Jones to fly out and Vladimir Guerrero to pop up on the first pitch. In the fourth, a pair of two-out singles were wasted when Andino grounded to short. Villanueva retired the Orioles in perfect order in the fifth and sixth.
So the Orioles entered the seventh inning down 4-1, seemingly limping to the finish. But suddenly, they made things interesting again. A leadoff single and walk chased Villanueva from the game, and the Birds jumped on his replacement, Jason Frasor. The reliever uncorked a wild pitch to move the runners to second and third, and an Andino sac fly plated one. Then Hardy delivered the first-- and only-- hit with a runner in scoring position, ripping an RBI double to the right-field wall. That cut the Orioles’ deficit to just one run, 4-3. Hardy, though, was left stranded when Markakis and Jones grounded out.
Whenever the Orioles score a run, it seems, they promptly give it right back to the opponents the next inning. Such was the case here, as ex-Blue Jay Jeremy Accardo was knocked around by his former team in the seventh. He gave up a leadoff double to J.P. Arencibia, but caught a huge break when catcher Matt Wieters threw out the runner trying to advance on a pitch in the dirt. That great play saved a run, as Aaron Hill later smacked a homerun (his second) to extend the Blue Jays’ lead to 5-3. Accardo also allowed a single before finishing the inning.
Wieters played the hero again in the eighth. First, the man of many letters, Marc Rzepczynski, did the impossible by walking Guerrero. By the way, why does a guy named Rzepczynski have to appear in the same game as a guy named Jakubauskas? Just typing out those two names has added 20 extra minutes to my writing time tonight. Blech.
In any case, Wieters proceeded to tie the game on one mighty swing, pulling a two-run homer into the left-field seats. Boom! Five to five! That was the big hit the O’s badly needed. It was Matt’s sixth roundtripper of the year...and the 26th of his career, tying him for 86th place on the all-time O’s homerun list with Russ Snyder, Billy Gardner, and Jerry Hairston!
It was a brand new ballgame, and the Orioles’ early struggles had been erased. Nice late-inning comeback, guys! For once, it felt like the momentum was actually shifting in favor of the Birds, and they might actually have a chance to win this one.
Nope. Of course not. These are still the Orioles. Immediately after tying the game, the Birds went back to their frustrating, punchless ways. The batter after Wieters, Derrek Lee, also crushed a blast to deep left field...but it sailed just foul. Lee then struck out against Casey Janssen. But still, the O’s had a chance to take the lead. Luke Scott singled and was replaced by pinch-runner Felix Pie. Janssen then uncorked a wild pickoff throw to first that allowed Pie to scramble all the way to third. Go-ahead run, just 90 feet away with one out! If you can’t score him, you don’t deserve to win. ...Well, you can guess how that turned out. Janssen rung up both Reynolds and Andino on strikeouts, making the Orioles 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
In fairness, the Orioles worked out of a dicey situation of their own in the bottom of the eighth. Escobar led off with an infield single when Andino ranged to his left to field a grounder but then rushed a too-high throw to first. Two batters later, Bautista singled, and Lind walked to load the bases with one out. Johnson, like Janssen, pulled off a great escape, keeping the go-ahead run stranded at third. He induced a forceout at the plate from Arencibia, then retired Edwin Encarnacion on a fly to right. Quite frankly, the Blue Jays tonight were just as awful at hitting in the clutch as the Orioles were-- in fact, more so. While the Orioles were a horrid 1-for-12 with men in scoring position, the Blue Jays were an even more putrid 1-for-13. The Jays stranded 13 runners to the Orioles’ 10. It was one of those games that neither team deserved to win.
But somebody had to. And as always in this ballpark, it wasn’t the Orioles. They wasted a one-out Markakis double in the ninth, and couldn’t capitalize on a two-on, one-out rally in the 10th as Reynolds and Andino were retired by tall righty Jon Rauch. Meanwhile, Johnson worked a perfect bottom of the ninth and Koji Uehara retired the Jays 1-2-3 in the 10th.
In the 11th, Markakis singled off Shawn Camp-- capping a three-hit night-- but was immediately erased on a double play from Jones, who went 0-for-5. The Jays didn’t drag out the suspense any longer. The first batter of the 11th, Lind, jumped on a hanging Uehara splitter and crushed it into the right-field seats for a walkoff homerun, his 12th of the year. Game over. Blue Jays win. Again. I swear the Orioles have had more walkoff losses in Toronto than anywhere else.
The O’s fell out of the game early, then climbed back in late, then gave it away again even later. In the end it’s the same frustrating result for a team that’s letting the season slip away from them. Camp got the win and Uehara the loss; they’re both 1-1. Orioles lose, 6-5, in 11 innings.
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