Orioles right-hander Jeremy Hellickson held the Los Angeles Angels to a pair of singles over his first six innings Tuesday night, but his night unraveled quickly as the clock struck midnight on the East Coast.
Hellickson allowed four straight hits to open the seventh inning without getting an out — the Orioles bullpen quiet for most of that time — as a tie game turned into a two-run deficit that ultimately led to a 3-2 loss at Angel Stadium.
“It happened really fast,” Hellickson said. “Probably in the span of six, seven, maybe eight pitches, they got four hits. So it happened really quick. [I’ve] got to make a pitch there and make an out.”
The Orioles (56-57) had the opportunity to move above .500 for the first time since June 11 and could have come within a half-game of the second American League wild-card spot with a win, but instead were left to ponder missed opportunities.
Hellickson still recorded his second quality start in two outings since coming to the Orioles in a July 28 trade with the Philadelphia Phillies. He has a 2.08 ERA in his two games with his new team.
“Pitching on the road, tough lineup, team that’s playing real well,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “I can’t find anything to fault him with. Even that last inning, some well-placed hits.”
The Angels opened the seventh with three singles and a double off Hellickson, but only one ball — Andrelton Simmons’ RBI single — was barreled up. The run-scoring hit before it, Luis Valbeuna’s double down the left-field line, had a hit probability of just 19 percent.
“I thought he was really good,” Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph said of Hellickson. “Thought he deserved a better fate. He was really cruising there. He gave up one barreled baseball today. It’s unfortunate for him. He was doing well and they just grinded out some at-bats there in the [seventh actually] and made him pay for a couple mistakes.”
The Orioles managed just one run over seven innings against former Orioles farmhand Parker Bridwell, and despite starting to hit him hard later in the game couldn’t take advantage.
“When you minimize damage, it always feels good,” Bridwell said. “They ran into a little trouble base running and it worked in our favor. I’ll take every break I can catch.”
The Orioles opened the sixth inning with three straight hits off Bridwell, including Joseph’s RBI single that tied the game at 1 and put runners at the corners.
But Seth Smith — the lead runner at third in the sixth — was erased when he was tagged out at home on Joey Rickard’s grounder to third baseman Valbuena.
The Orioles were held to one run that inning after Cameron Maybin made a diving catch on Manny Machado’s line drive to left field, even though four of the five balls hit off Bridwell that inning had an exit velocity of above 100 mph, three of them above 106 mph.
“It was just the execution of pitches,” Bridwell said. “The location was a little up and they got some good wood. I came in after the inning, and thought I had to be a little better with my execution.”
Smith landed on second base with one out in the seventh after singling and moving to second on a wild pitch by Bridwell, but he was cut down trying to go to third on a grounder to shortstop Simmons.
Even after falling behind, the Orioles also had a ripe scoring opportunity in the eighth against reliever Cam Bedrosian, putting runners at first and third with no outs after Adam Jones reached on a two-base throwing error by Valbuena and Machado singled.
But Jonathan Schoop and Chris Davis struck out swinging, flailing at pitches outside the strike zone, and Trey Mancini flied out to left on the first pitch he saw to end the threat.
Joseph drove in both Orioles runs, hitting a towering solo homer to left field with two outs in the ninth.
The Orioles were just 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
Hellickson struck out nine, all of them swinging, against an aggressive Angels lineup. His changeup was particularly effective, especially down in the zone, as he recorded seven strikeouts on the pitch.
“The changeup was down and I think I was getting ahead,” Hellickson said. “For the most part, they were in swing mode.”
Bridwell pitches seven strong innings
Less than four months after the Orioles sold Bridwell’s contract to the Angels, he shut down his former team, recording his seventh quality start in 11 big league starts.
Bridwell, who was converted to a reliever by the Orioles last year and designated for assignment in April just two outings into this season, retired 12 of the first 14 batters he faced while holding the Orioles scoreless for his first four innings.
He stranded two on in the fifth and then left another base runner on in the seventh.
“He was solid,” Showalter said of Bridwell. “We had the right people up a couple times, just couldn’t get it done. … Just couldn't get it done in the situation we wanted to do it. They did too, they left a guy on third nobody out and so did we.”
After allowing a two-out single to Schoop in the first inning, Bridwell retired 10 of the next 11 batters he faced heading into the fifth inning.
Bridwell rode early success by mixing a five-pitch arsenal. But against the Orioles early, he relied mostly on his four-seam fastball. Eleven of the 12 balls put in play against Bridwell were fastballs. Later in the game he found his groove expanding the zone with his sinker going one way and his cutter the tailing the other.
“He’s a good dude,” Joseph said. “I enjoyed Parker. He’s a great human, works hard. Sometimes there’s just unfortunate circumstances where you’re in position to make decisions and I’m glad he’s pitching well over here. He’s a good guy. Not very happy he pitched well tonight against us. It doesn’t surprise me. He’s got good stuff. We had some pitches to do damage with; we didn’t do very much with it. He did a nice job, but we can put a better effort out there, for sure.”
Bullpen does its job
Orioles relievers kept the game close, particularly right-hander Darren O’Day, who inherited runners at the corners with no outs in the seventh and prevented further damage.
O’Day first induced a soft comebacker to the mound from Martin Maldonado, looked the base runner at third base to the bag and went to second base for the forceout.
He then got No. 9 hitter Cliff Pennington to hit into a bunt popup to first and struck out Maybin on seven pitches.
In the eighth, Donnie Hart entered with a runner on first and no outs, but received an outstanding diving play from Schoop at second to get the lead runner on Ben Revere's ball into the hole, and then was the beneficiary of an inning-ending 3-6 double play.