Written by Mike Laws
Ninety feet away
Stranded at third
Orioles 2, Kansas City 3
Disappointed? No question. For a club with as killer an offense as the 2013 Baltimore Orioles, the inability to deliver a runner from third with no one out in the inning has become a chronically shocking, shambolic disorder. (Let’s not forget: This is two nights in a row it’s now happened, both following a triple, though no one much cares about these things in a 9-2 rout. Bit different when you’re entering the ninth down 3-1, and Nick Markakis falls behind in the count before fouling off a couple tough ones from flamethrowing K.C. closer Greg Holland, and finally shoots a ball to left to bring the potential tie run to the plate in the person of Adam Jones, who promptly punishes a hanging breaking ball with a rocket into the left-center field gap, and hurtles himself all the way around to third just ahead of the throw. The Royals are now forced to play their infield in, which doesn’t figure in what happens to the following hitter, Chris Davis, who can’t catch up to Holland’s nigh-on-triple-digit heat, and finally flails at a wicked slider in the dirt. One away. J.J. Hardy’s turn to try and — at the very least — lift a fly ball somewhere out there; instead he chops one over the head, but still within range, of third baseman Mike Moustakas, who’s so close to Jones over there that he doesn’t even have to look him back before relaying to first. Two outs. And Henry Urrutia takes a ball and swings through a strike and sweeps a grounder to first. Game over.) So should they have tied it? Sure. There’s probably never a great excuse not to convert on that runner, ninety feet away, when you’ve got three outs to work with. (Hell, I would’ve loved to see Davis pull an ’89 Joe Carter, and drop a bunt down. Put some pressure on a surprised defense. Am I crazy?) Then again, invoking Ned Flanders (“Let’s not ‘should’ this fella to death, Maude”), if we’re gonna play the conditional-tense game, you’d have to say the Royals should’ve won this thing going away. The home team had Jason Hammel on the ropes in each of the Oriole starter’s first three frames of work: Kansas City loaded the bases in the first with not a soul out, but had to settle for a run that came across while Manny Machado turned a rally-stanching double play off the bat of Billy Butler. 1-0. Should-/could’ve been worse. David Lough led the second off with a single to right, an act Alcides Escobar repeated with one away, after which Chris Getz went up the middle, plating Lough and moving Escobar to third despite Jones’s best efforts at cutting the speedster down (which only, in the end, advanced Getz into scoring position as well). Yuh-oh. Second and third, still just one away. But Hammel fanned Alex Gordon, then lined Eric Hosmer out on a vicious rope right at Davis, which you’d have to call some good inning-ending fortune. And pretty much the same happened in the third, after Machado halved the lead by taking Bruce Chen deep to left in the Oriole half: Lorenzo Cain and Butler both singled and Moustakas pulled a double down the right-field line. No one down, one run already in, second and third again. But Hammel popped Lough out, then got two more of those BABIP-lowering lineouts, to short and second, from George Kottaras and Escobar, respectively, keeping this one within reach at 3-1, still. Whoa, Nelly, that’s a lot of runners left out to dry. Lotta hard-hit balls vectored right into an Oriole, er, flight-path. Meanwhile, following Manny’s bomb, the O’s went quietly against old pal Chen, who deployed his full arsenal of “baffling batting practice” with enough aplomb to retire his next ten Baltimore hitters. Hammel settled down, too (relatively speaking), and equaled his counterpart (at least in terms of how deep they both went). Then the relievers came out and kept it quiet till the game’s dying embers: T.J. McFarland, for the O’s (two innings of scoreless ball, with a little help from Brian Roberts on the Birds’ final defensive chance of the night), and Kelvin Herrera (who did touch triple digits) and Aaron Crow, surrendering a reached-on-error and a walk, respectively, for the Royals, then giving way to closer Holland, where we all know what happened there. So yes, it would’ve been nice if they’d tied it. They probably should have tied it. But flip it around and you can say, too, that they could’ve, and from the Royals’ perspective definitely should’ve, lost by a scoreline of more like 7 or 8 to 2 or 3. An outing from an embattled starter who looked even worse than usual, and was frankly lucky to emerge so relatively unscathed; an offensive effort that made an old journeyman junk-baller look a world-beater — the disappointing final half-inning notwithstanding, this was not a game the Orioles deserved to win.
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