There are two ways to look at Friday night’s 14-9 loss to the Oakland A’s. One, the Orioles lost a game in which their starter gave up 4 in the first, and 6 overall. Or, if you’re more realistic about things, the Orioles lost a game that saw their offense claw back from deficits twice, and blew it with their closer in the 9th. We’ll let you decide. In the first scenario, it’s no big deal. How many times do you win games when your starter has given up 4 runs before recording 3 outs (and 5 before recording 4)? In scenario number 2, this game is an absolute killer, the kind that some teams just don’t rebound from.
You want goats? Well, welcome to the auction house. The first item up for bids: an occasionally brilliant, but more often enigmatic southpaw named Zach Britton.
In the first, Britton issued a 1-out walk to Jonny Gomes, then gave up an RBI triple to Josh Reddick. A wild pitch allowed Reddick to score. Yoenis Cespedes singled, and Chris Carter hit his 7th home run, making it 4-0 Oakland with 1 out in the first.
Brandon Hicks connected for his 2nd home run or the year leading off the second, and the A’s led 5-0.
Chris Davis’ second home run in as many games, and 17th of the season, put the O’s on the board in the second.
A two-out rally in the third, featuring a walk to Nick Markakis and an RBI double from JJ Hardy made it 5-2.
In the fifth, the Orioles stopped nibbling away at the lead, and instead, chewed it up and spit it out. Taylor Teagarden started things with a 1-out single. Markakis singled. Hardy delivered the first run of the inning with an RBI hit, making it 5-3. One out later, Adam Jones stepped to the plate.
Jones picked on the very first pitch from A’s starter Jarrod Parker, an 85 MPH hanging slider that did absolutely nothing, and hit a laser line drive into the first row in the left field seats for a three-run home run (24). The blast was one of the more memorable moments in a season filled with them for Jones, and in a perfect world, the birds’ pitching staff would’ve found a way to slam the door right there. But they did not. Not even close.
Zach Britton took the hill with a lead for the first time in the sixth. Battling Brandon Inge, Britton got the A’s third baseman to line out to left in a six-pitch at bat. On the seventh pitch to Derek Norris, Britton picked up a fly out to center, for out number two. But when Britton followed the Norris at-bat with a five pitch walk to Hicks, Buck Showalter made his move to the bullpen, Britton’s fastball, which topped out numerous times at 93 early in the game, was now touching 91. His location was becoming spotty. He’d thrown 101 pitches. The call to the bullpen was a wise move by Showalter. The arm chosen, as it turned out, was not.
Miguel Socolovich had been called up from Norfolk before the game, with the Orioles designating Dana Eveland for assignment for a third time this year. If Socolovich’s first go around in the majors this year was forgettable (2G, 4IP, 4ER, 5H, 2BB, 2K, 9.00ERA), Friday night’s appearance was tragic.
Socolovich’s job was to get one more out, stranding the tying run on base. Instead, he went 3-0 to Jemile Weeks before walking him. He went 3-0 to the next batter, Coco Crisp, before walking him to load the bases. Pinch hitter Seth Smith stepped in and drilled a 3-2 pitch into the left center field gap. With two outs and the base runners moving on contact, all three scored, and the lead the Orioles had fought so hard for had vanished, Oakland 8, the Orioles 6. Socolovich, Orioles’ goat number two, finished with a line of 0.1IP, 2ER, 1H, 2BB, and his one inherited runner scored as well.
It looked like the Orioles were going to launch a major comeback in the seventh. Hardy drew a one-out walk, followed by a free pass to Jim Thome. One out later, Chris Davis took ball four, loading the bases with two away. But A’s reliever Sean Doolittle made short work of Wilson Betemit, fanning him on three pitches.
In the eighth, though, the Orioles did indeed mount another lead-changing rally. Mark Reynolds walked. Two outs later, Markakis singled, and Doolittle’s night was over. JJ Hardy was the first to face Ryan Cook out of the A’s bullpen, and greeted him with an RBI single to left, scoring Reynolds. With the score 8-7, Thome delivered an RBI hit to right, tying things at 8. Cook hit Jones with a pitch, loading the bases with two outs.
Chris Davis, in what looks to be the early stages of one of his hot streaks, dug in. After swinging at and missing a pair of mid-90s fastballs, Davis timed a 95 MPH heater on the inside part of the plate, put an inside-out swing on it, and ripped it to left. Hardy scored the go ahead run, but third base coach DeMarlo Hale decided to wave Thome around. The relay nailed him at the plate by the length of a BWI runway, for out number three. Still, the Orioles had done the improbable. Their offense had come back from multiple runs down against a team with very good pitching. Twice. In the same game. And now, the automatic part: hand the ball the Jim Johnson, and have him slam the door to walk away with one of the most satisfying wins of, not only this season, but many seasons.
A funny thing happened on the way to the Orioles most thrilling win of the year, though. OK, so “funny” may not be the right word. And maybe we shouldn’t put the right word in print. Let’s just say, the O’s All Star closer showed that he is human.
Things started innocently enough for Johnson (L, 1-1). He got Cespedes to ground out to first on a great play by Reynolds, to Johnson covering, for the first out. Then, it got very ugly, very quickly. Carter singled to center. Inge singled to left. Norris singled to right, and tying it up at 9.
Brandon Moss walked to load the bases, bringing up Weeks. Hitless in the game at that point, and hitting .216 on the year, Weeks reached after a fastball on the outer half and served it directly down the left field line, scoring Inge, and making it 10-9 A’s. Coco Crisp’s grounder toward first had eyes and found its way into right field, adding two more runs, and chasing Johnson. Luis Ayala came on with a pair on and one out. Seth Smith’s second double of the night plated those inherited runners, making it 14-9 Oakland.
The Orioles mounted a minor threat in the ninth, with base hits from Reynolds and Quintanilla, but could push no more across against A’s lefty Jerry Blevins (W, 4-0).
The Orioles will have to try to shake this one off as they do battle with the A’s again Saturday.Tommy Hunter (4-5, 5.57) goes for the O’s. For the A’s, it’s Bartolo Colon (6-8, 3.97). First pitch is slated for 7:05.
- Both Davis and Hardy coming out of their slumps simultaneously is keying the offense right now. If it continues this way, Buck will have to seriously consider sliding Davis back up to the #3 spot in the lineup, putting Davis’ bat in between Hardy’s and the ever-so-consistent Adam Jones’. With Markakis still rolling right along atop the lineup, having four guys hitting well at once, 1-4, sounds like some bunched hits, and big innings.
- Well, we’ve pointed out Britton and Socolovich as goats in this one, but there are others. Certainly with the season he’s having, Johnson’s bad outing has to be forgiven, even in a game like this. He’d be the first to call himself a (the?) goat, though. He faced 7 batters, started 5 of them off 1-0, and ended up retiring just 1 of them. Also, DeMarlo Hale waving Thome around to basically hand the A’s the final out of the eighth. What was he thinking? Betemit is on deck with 2 hits on the night already. Hale took the bat out of his hands. And, who isn’t second guessing Showalter’s move to bring in Socolovich in the situation he was brought into? He showed a lot of confidence in the kid. He was not rewarded for it.
- The Orioles struck out 13 times in this game. They walked 5 times. Compare that to Oakland: 5 strikeouts. 6 walks.