The only thing forgiving to the Orioles on Monday night in Seattle was the official scorer at Safeco Field.
The Orioles were only charged with one error – raising their major league high to 70 -- in their 6-3 loss to the Mariners. But anyone staying up past the late local news to watch Baltimore’s comedy of non-errors knows that wasn't a true indication of how horrible the team's fielding was.
If you dozed off on the couch before the sixth inning, consider yourself lucky. What you missed was sure to give you nightmares.
One thing was for sure: starter Jason Hammel deserved the win, but the Orioles defense let him down. He had retired seven straight through the middle innings until Robert Andino’s fielding error put a man on base in the fifth.
Then, left fielder Steve Pearce's play on John Jaso’s fly ball in the sixth was by no means routine, but as Pearce neared the warning track, he closed his glove before the ball was inside – a ball that was ruled a double -- forcing Hammel to work out of a jam with runners at second and third and one out.
But the backbreaker came in the seventh. With Dustin Ackley on first, the Orioles had a perfectly executed strike-him-out, throw-him-out double play. After Hammel struck out Chone Figgins, Matt Wieters pinpointed a pefect throw to second to get Ackley.
But Andino simply dropped the ball. No error was charged.
“The strike-him-out, throw-him-out changed the game,” Andino said late. “It would have just been different. It would have been nobody on. It would have been from the windup. It changed the whole game when I dropped that ball.”
It should have been Andino’s 12th error of the season, which would have tied him with Wilson Betemit for the team lead. Instead it went unmarked in the scorecard, but it was a catalyst to the Mariners’ three-run seventh.
After the game, Orioles manager Buck Showalter defended his team, specifically Andino.
“He just dropped the ball,” Showalter said. “Robert’s made that play in his sleep and made great tags. One of the reasons we are where we are is because of how well Robert’s played at second base while (Brian Roberts has) been out. To sit here and think I’m going to beat up on him, he’s been solid for us at second. Probably the key to the game, we had three hits. You’re not going to do a lot.”
Hammel took the blame as well. He had four three-ball counts – including two walks – that inning. But those walks might not have happened with the bases empty.
Showalter pressed that it was the lack of offense that lost the game. And on most nights over the past half-month, he would be right. The Orioles’ .192 average since June 15 is the only number you need to prove that.
And even though the Orioles didn’t have a hit after Chris Davis’ three-run homer in the fourth, they wouldn’t have needed any had they played fundamental baseball.
Showalter was right in this – the Orioles are leaving themselves little margin for error – and when they leave the door open for other teams, they’re often going to get burned. A Seattle team that is 11 games under .500 and has the third-worst team batting average in baseball did it Monday, but imagine how the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays will capitalize come the second half of the season if the Orioles don’t correct the error – no pun intended – of their ways.