The Orioles entered Tuesday's game against the Toronto Blue Jays needing a miraculous sequence of events to make the playoffs, but they were still mathematically alive in the chase for the second American League wild-card spot.
But the Orioles' 3-2, 10-inning loss to the Blue Jays in front of a half-empty Camden Yards — combined with the Cleveland Indians' 5-4 walk-off win over the Chicago White Sox — killed their faint postseason hopes.
“There were a lot of good things that went on,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “But it's tough to dwell on it too much right now because we understand what the finished product was supposed to be, and it wasn't tonight. And [other teams will] be playing games when we want to play them."
The Orioles' sixth consecutive loss, which tied a season high, was much like many heartbreaking one-run losses before it. The Blue Jays sent the game to extra innings on a two-out seeing-eye single in the eighth, and a close pick-off call at second base in the 10th went against the Orioles before that baserunner eventually became the winning run.
“Being eliminated from the playoffs is a huge disappointment because that was what we had our minds set on and that was our goal this season,” Orioles left fielder Nate McLouth said. “To realize that's not going to happen is really disappointing, especially the way the last two games have gone. We feel like we could have or maybe should have won. Kind of strange things happened that didn't allow that to happen, but to be officially eliminated is disappointing.”
Tuesday's loss was the Orioles' 13th in their last 16 one-run contests, the latest in a disturbing reel of close losses down the stretch. A day after losing in Tampa Bay on a walk-off homer, the Orioles (81-76) saw a one-run lead disappear in the eighth on Tuesday on pinch hitter Mark DeRosa's two-out bloop base hit that dropped in shallow right field off left-hander Brian Matusz.
In the top of the 10th, DeRosa struck again, this time with a two-out single to right off right-hander Francisco Rodriguez, scoring Jose Reyes. Earlier in the inning, Rodriguez's pick off throw to second appeared to beat Reyes to the bag, but second-base umpire Gerry Davis called Reyes safe.
“This game's not always fair,” Showalter said. “Certainly not right now for our guys. … It's a lot of close games. There's some things we did well and some things we didn't. There's a lot of good baseball ahead for this team and this organization. Tonight was a call here and there, a great pitch that the baseball gods didn't shine on us. They got a couple that found holes and we had some situations where we could have expanded the lead and we didn't.”
The Orioles, who were 29-9 during last season's remarkable run to the postseason, couldn't duplicate that success this season 17-31 in one-run contests.
Earlier in the day, the Orioles received the uplifting news that the season-ending injury to Manny Machado likely will not require surgery and he could be ready for spring training.
Playing without their All-Star third baseman in the starting lineup for the first time this season, the Orioles scored three runs or fewer for the seventh time in their past 10 games. They have four runs or fewer in six straight games and 17 of their past 21.
In the process, the Orioles are five games above .500 for the first time since May 29.
The announced 16,772 gave Machado a standing ovation when he was shown on the video board in the middle of the fifth inning. Machado tipped his cap to fans, but there was little for the fans to cheer for after that moment.
After back-to-back solo homers by Brian Roberts and Nate McLouth put the Orioles up 2-1 in the third, the Orioles were scoreless for seven innings.
“For some reason, our consistency offensively wasn't there, as it should have been at the end,” McLouth said. “The pitching has really pitched well, it seems like, for a while now. We weren't able to consistently score enough runs. We had plenty of pitching tonight, plenty in Tampa. We didn't do enough offensively so it's disappointing, because that's the goal you come into spring training with and we're not going to be able to do that.”
The Orioles wasted a quality start from right-hander Chris Tillman, who went seven or more innings for the sixth time in his last seven starts, allowing just one run on five hits over seven innings, tying a career-high with nine strikeouts and recording just one walk.
Tillman received a no-decision, but he became the fifth Orioles pitcher to reach 200 innings in a season since 2001. He joined Jeremy Guthrie (2009, 2010 and 2011), Daniel Cabrera (2007), Rodrigo Lopez (2005) and Sidney Ponson (2004). He also became the first Orioles pitcher 25 years old or younger to reach 200 innings since Ponson, who was 22 when he pitched 210 innings in 1999.
The Blue Jays tied the game in the eighth when Reyes led off the inning with a single off rookie right-hander Kevin Gausman. He moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and on to third on a wild pitch.
After Gausman struck out Brett Lawrie for the second out, left-hander Brian Matusz yielded a run-scoring bloop single to shallow right field to pinch hitter DeRosa to tie the game.
After putting runners on first and second to open in the fourth inning, Tillman faced just one batter over the minimum for the rest of his outing, retiring 11 of the final 13 batters he faced.
Tillman allowed his only run in the second inning. The Blue Jays (71-85) put runners at second and third with one out on Adam Lind's leadoff single and a one-out double by Anthony Gose. Ryan Goins' two-out infield single to shortstop scored Lind for an early 1-0 lead.
Roberts and McLouth’s back-to-back solo homers accounted for the Orioles’ only offense.
Roberts took a full-count fastball over the heart of the plate from Toronto starter Todd Redmond into the right-field stands for his seventh homer of the season to tie the game. Two pitches later, McLouth followed with his 12th homer of the season, taking a Redmond fastball onto the flag court in right field.
But after the game, with the final five games of the season relegated to playing for pride, the Orioles focus was suddenly forced to shift away from fighting toward the postseason.
”We play all the way from February 15 or whenever we started to get to the playoffs,” shortstop J.J. Hardy said. “It's hard to think that after how many games we've played since then, we're not going, so yeah, it's tough.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun