The Orioles’ 7-6 walk-off loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday night was a doozy. You could sense that inside a silent Orioles clubhouse following the game.
It’s a game that this team would have likely won last year. After battling back from one-run deficits in the eighth and ninth innings to tie the game, Orioles fans saw this script written several times last year as a tied game headed to the bottom of the ninth.
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But it didn’t end like most of last year’s late-inning close games. Like the Orioles keep track of home run balls that land on Eutaw Street, in Arizona, they record ones that hit the swimming pool beyond the right-center field fence. And that’s where Adam Eaton’s game-winning home run landed.
Darren O’Day was working for his third consecutive day, having thrown a scoreless inning in each of the past two nights on 11 pitches. Eaton hit out his first pitch -- a 78 mph slider -- on Monday.
Playing in a National League ballpark offers its share of challenges, and one of the big ones is how to use the bullpen. With pitchers hitting, starters can end up getting the hook a little earlier if their time to bat comes up in the middle innings.
That wasn’t the case with Scott Feldman on Monday. He had thrown 109 pitches when he was taken out with one out in the sixth, but the bullpen has had to log its share of innings during the road trip.
“We did some things in San Francisco to win those games that kind of put us in a bind tonight,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “Anytime you rob Peter to pay Paul, we got some innings out of Scotty tonight and we needed them. It’s just unfortunate that some other things got in the way of a good game.”
And after allowing just one run in 14 innings on the road trip, the bullpen allowed five in 2 2/3-plus innings on Monday.
“It happens,” Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts said. “It’s just like the offense, some days we don’t score some runs. They’ve been awesome all year, and they’ll continue to be really good. Feldman pitched really well and gave us the chance to win, and unfortunately, it was one of those nights where we just couldn’t get enough of the lead to hold it.”
Showalter made it clear that one thing didn’t cost the Orioles the game. A three-run Diamondbacks seventh inning that began with a hit batter and a walk didn’t help. The Orioles had a few opportunities for a big inning early against Arizona starter Wade Miley.
But you could tell the second-inning obstruction call on third baseman Manny Machado -- in which Gerardo Parra was awarded a run despite being out by three steps at home plate following a passed ball -- stuck in Showalter’s mind.
It was a bizarre play, Parra seemed convinced to take a shot at home when he rounded third from second and sped home. Machado was there to cover the bag, and he looked to get out of the way when he saw Parra coming.
But third-base umpire Alfonso Marquez saw otherwise. And Showalter, who gave Marquez more than an earful right after the call, said bluntly that it was the wrong call after the game.
“You can go back to every one-run game and find some things that were off-set,” he also said after the game. “It’s a very tough job that umpires have.”
An obstruction call is entirely up to discretion of the umpire, so it's difficult to argue. According to Rule No. 7.06a:
"If a play is being made on the obstructed runner, or if the batter-runner is obstructed before he touches first base, the ball is dead and all runners shall advance, without liability to be put out, to the bases they would have reached, in the umpire’s judgment, if there had been no obstruction. The obstructed runner shall be awarded at least one base beyond the base he had last legally touched before the obstruction."
The play -- which would have ended the inning -- also pushed Feldman’s pitch count up, which could have meant a longer outing for the starter. Feldman had to throw 10 more pitches to get out of the inning.
“It would have been nice to get the call, but from the minute he said, ‘No, he’s safe,’ I know I’ve got to get another out there,” Feldman said. “They got a couple hits after that and got my pitch count up a little more.”
One more thing of note, as much as Chris Davis’ 43rd home run in the eighth -- an opposite field shot that tied the game, 5-5, in the eighth -- was impressive, I was almost more impressed with how the Orioles were able to scrape across a run in the ninth to tie the game again with some nice two-strike approaches.
Roberts battled back from a 1-2 count to draw a one-out walk. And with the bases loaded, Nick Markakis fouled off three two-strike pitches before hitting a game-tying sacrifice fly to complete an eight-pitch at-bat.
That’s what makes Monday tough to swallow. The Orioles truly battled, but in the end they had nothing to show for it.