The Orioles were schooled Sunday afternoon in an 11-1 rout at Camden Yards by an Oakland Athletics team that boasts the best record in the American League. And if this series were a barometer to gauge where the Orioles measured up against the high-flying Athletics, the test ended in ugly fashion.
Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez was wildly inefficient, lasting just 2 1/3 innings. He left his shortest outing of the season after giving up six runs in the third inning.
The Orioles issued a season-high 11 walks, the most they’ve allowed in nearly six years. Their hitters were silenced by Athletics left-hander Scott Kazmir, who allowed just four hits over seven shutout innings.
All of that was overshadowed when third baseman Manny Machado was ejected from the game after the bat flung out of his hands and into the field of play following two inside pitches — his second altercation with an Athletics player in the three-game series — prompting both dugouts and bullpens to clear.
With the loss, the Orioles (31-30) dropped two of three to the Athletics (39-24) in the series. The margin of defeat Sunday was the Orioles’ largest since losing, 13-2, to the Boston Red Sox on Aug. 27 last season.
“It was a weekend that had its ups and downs,” Machado said. “We got beat today. We got beat, and that's the only downer on this part. We got our [butt] kicked, and we're just going to have to put this [stuff] behind and go out there tomorrow and play some baseball.”
Even though players typically take the high road when controversy arises, the Athletics weren’t hesitant to criticize Machado after the game.
On Friday night, Machado took exception to what he believed was a hard tag from Athletics third baseman Josh Donaldson, confronting Donaldson before calm was restored. Later that game, Donaldson was hit by a pitch on the left forearm by left-hander Wei-Yin Chen.
And on Sunday, Athletics catcher Derek Norris was hit in the helmet by two backswings from Machado. After Norris was forced to leave the game following the second play, he indicated that Machado had malice in making contact with his head.
“Usually most guys ask if you're all right, but if anything, I might have caught him smiling one time, which is bizarre,” Norris said. “I don't need an ‘all right,’ but it is courteous to make sure you're doing all right, but nothing.
“I think it's sad a player needs to take things to a certain level. Somewhere inside him, he's got to know that he's in the wrong at some point, whether it was from the other night or today. You can't leave here today thinking you did nothing wrong. … What he's doing, it's a disgrace to baseball. It's sad to see someone of his talent and national recognition stain [his] career.”
Then, with the Orioles trailing, 10-0, in the eighth inning, Machado moved out of the way of two inside pitches from left-hander Fernando Abad. On the second one, Machado’s bat flew out of his hands on a late swing and down the left-field line toward third baseman Alberto Callaspo.
“I think if you look at it realistically, you had two competitive people the first day that both were probably a little right and both of them a little wrong,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I always try to let the players handle those things instead of getting involved with them. And I've been very careful through the years.
“Two days ago, they had a disagreement over what Manny perceived as something, and I'm always going to support him. And then two days later, in a 10-nothing game in the eighth inning, someone decided to do something else. I'll manage my club accordingly, and they can live with their decisions.”
Machado insisted that the bat left his hands accidentally. The umpiring crew did not see it that way, ejecting both Machado and Abad.
“It was obvious the pitcher threw at him the second time,” crew chief Larry Vanover told a pool reporter. “The first time you have some doubt, but the second time, there was no doubt he threw at him. And then he threw the bat. That wasn’t accidental. He threw the bat, so two ejections.”
Said Machado: “It slipped out of my hands. … slipped right out. The umpire thought it was intentional, so I guess at that point, you've got to toss the pitcher and the hitter at the same time.”
Athletics designated hitter John Jaso, who had four RBIs on Sunday and was the first Oakland player out of the dugout in the eighth inning, disagreed.
“He's a guy who pretty much swings at strikes, and I've never seen a guy swing at a ball coming right at him like that and let the bat go flying,” Jaso said. “When you see the bat go flying, it's usually like something [Chris] Davis did [later in the game], getting fooled and letting the bat go. I've never seen a bat get released like that, so there's only one [thing] I can think, it was kind of intentional.”
Showalter, who constantly says he has to remind himself that Machado is only 21 years old, defended his young third baseman.
“I thought Manny responded very well in that game and had some very good at-bats in this series, compared to some other people who might have been involved in altercations,” Showalter said. “I thought Manny handled it better than someone with some experience did. It was also a good experience for him to have. He cares. It’s a learning experience for all of us.”
Asked if he was concerned that Machado might receive a suspension, Showalter said: “Probably the same level that I'm sure they're worried about a suspension for Abad.”
Showalter recognized the tension and was one of the first to sprint out of the dugout after Machado and catcher Stephen Vogt exchanged words. No punches were thrown, but given what happened earlier in the series, it had the potential for a worse outcome.
“I’m sure they’ll review some things that happened,” Showalter said. “I was trying to make [sure] it didn’t. I’ll be icing my knee down.”
Earlier in the game, Jimenez faced the minimum number of batters through his first two innings before unraveling in the third, chased from the game after Brandon Moss’ grand slam.
“I lost everything,” Jimenez said. “The fastball was moving too much. It was hard to throw for a strike. And the breaking ball, I couldn’t throw it for a strike.”
Jimenez issued five walks Sunday, tying a season-high, and three of those base runners scored.
Jimenez opened the third inning by walking the seventh, eighth and ninth hitters in Athletics lineup.
“That’s a tough thing,” Jimenez said. “I started so good the first couple innings, and then that inning, I lost the ability to throw a strike. It’s one of those days. It’s a really tough game.”
Jaso then took a 1-2 pitch from Jimenez to center field that ricocheted off an object near the fence and back into the field of play. The ball initially was called a grand slam, giving the Athletics a 4-0 lead, but it was overturned after a review and ruled a two-run double.
Jimenez’s control problems continued as he walked Nick Punto to load the bases again. Donaldson grounded to third, where Machado prevented another run by throwing home to get the force out. But Moss then crushed a first-pitch splitter well over the center-field fence for his 16th homer of the season.
Jimenez left the game to some boos, having allowed a season-high six runs on two hits and the five walks.
He had allowed just two total runs in his past two starts before Sunday, but he has been wildly inconsistent in his time with the Orioles, who signed him to a four-year, $50 million deal in February. After Sunday's performance, Jimenez has allowed five or more runs in three of his last five starts, and he hasn’t gone past the fifth inning in any of those three outings.
“It’s been difficult because I haven’t been consistent at all,” he said. “I had a couple good games and then had a bad one. I haven’t been consistent at all. That’s something you want as a starter, to be there every five days and be there for the team, and I haven’t done that. The only thing I can do is keep working hard, and hopefully things are going to change.”
Sunday’s outing marked Jimenez’s shortest start since April 16, 2013 against Boston. On that day, he lasted just 1 2/3 innings, allowing seven runs, two hits and five walks.
It didn’t get much better after Jimenez’s exit as the Orioles were forced to use both of their long-relievers — right-hander Brad Brach and left-hander T.J. McFarland — which sets the bullpen back with the club facing 13 games against AL East opponents in the next 14 days.