With the Orioles staring at their first losing season since 2011, the tone of this year’s final two weeks has taken a turn to the future.
And while it was encouraging to see right-hander Kevin Gausman continue his second-half resurgence with his best outing of the season, the Orioles’ 11-inning 1-0 loss to the Boston Red Sox — their second straight defeat in extra innings against the American League East leaders — was another in a series of recent gut punches as the club has sputtered through September.
The Orioles (73-79) couldn’t scrape across a run after being denied on two opportunities early in the game, and haven’t scored in 17 straight innings.
The night’s only run was scored on a wild pitch by Brad Brach with two outs and the bases loaded in the 11th.
“They're very frustrated right now,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “You can imagine grinding as our guys have since February and not being able to push a run like that across in some of these games when we pitch well. That's been a challenge for us. I feel for them because I know how much it means to them.”
Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. stole a home run from Chris Davis in the fifth inning and left fielder Andrew Benintendi threw out Manny Machado at the plate attempting to score from second on Jonathan Schoop’s two-out single in the third inning.
“That’s how it’s going,” catcher Caleb Joseph said. “It’s basically the story of our 2017 season. We get an unbelievable pitching performance. We have two chances to score, and you never know, maybe one would have done it. It was tonight, one did it. It may have won the game. We’re on the back end. Score eight runs the night before. Who knows? We’re liable to score 15 tomorrow. It’s frustrating. … It starts to take words out of your mouth.”
After losing 11 of their past 13 games, the Orioles must now finish the season 8-2 to avoid the franchise’s first losing season since 2011, Showalter’s first full season as manager.
Working his second inning of relief, Brach issued back-to-back two-out walks after the inning opened with an infield single.
The Red Sox scored the game’s only run without hitting a ball out of the infield when Brach’s first pitch to Mitch Moreland skipped in front of catcher Welington Castillo, who entered the game in the 11th, and high into the air, enabling Bradley to score.
The Orioles put the tying run at second base with two outs in the bottom of the 11th when Adam Jones reached on third baseman Rafael Devers’ two-base throwing error, but Trey Mancini grounded out back to the mound, ending the game.
Gausman took a no-hit bid into the fifth inning, retiring the first 14 batters he faced before allowing a two-out single by Devers in the fifth.
Overall, Gausman retired 23 of the 27 batters he faced, allowing only three singles and a walk. He had a season-best game score of 85.
“He was outstanding,” Showalter said. “That’s about as good as it gets against a team operating on all cylinders and giving it their best shot. Kevin was every bit as good. You’d like to get a ‘W’ out of that, obviously. It was a good outing.”
Gausman ran into his most trouble in the sixth, giving up a two-out single to Xander Bogaerts, then walking Benintendi, but he escaped the inning with a 6-3 groundout from Mookie Betts.
He pitched effectively with his fastball, keeping the pitch on the outer part of the plate against Boston’s left-handed-heavy lineup, mixing it well with a splitter that drew swing and misses early. Lefties were just 1-for-14 against him on the night.
“Fastball command [was good],” Gausman said. “Had a really good feel for my four-seamer. Caleb did a really great job back there, sequencing guys and my defense played great. Just throwing a lot of strikes.”
Gausman recorded seven strikeouts — most of them coming in the early innings — before lasting late into the game by pitching to contact. Five of Gausman’s seven strikeouts were swinging, and four of those came on his splitter.
He walked off the mound to an ovation from the announced Camden Yards crowd of 21,449 after receiving a key double-play ball off the bat of Bradley.
Gausman has allowed one run or none in four of his past five starts, with a 2.25 ERA over that span. He also has a 3.09 ERA in 12 second-half starts, which is the eighth best among AL qualified starters in that span.
“I think not trying as hard,” Gausman said of his second half. “I think early on I was kind of pressing, trying to have a good year right out of the gate and I think maybe I was just trying to do too much. Kind of simplified my delivery and feeling good about my pitches.”
Gausman, who likely has two more starts left this season, has made a major league-leading 32 starts and at 175 2/3 innings is just four innings short of last year’s career high.
“He’s had a tremendous second half,” Joseph said. “I’ve been very proud of him. I know it didn’t start off the way he wanted to in the first half, but he’s done a great job in the second half. He’s been really solid. It’s really good to see in the second half for the rest of the year and moving forward.”
In robbing Davis of a home run, Bradley ran toward the wall and in mid-stride jumped to snag the ball and bring it back into play.
“He made it look so effortless,” Joseph said. “It amazes me how these outfielders can just run. It’s like they know exactly where the wall is without looking.”
Said Showalter: “I don’t think anybody thought he wasn’t going to make a good bid for it. I hate to say it, it almost looks routine in some ways, for him especially. He makes a lot of great plays on balls in the park and some that might go out. Would it have gone out? I'm not sure. It probably would have.”
The catch made Davis just 8-for-55 (a .140 average) in September. He has just two homers and three RBIs this month.
Orioles offense shut down
The Orioles had two chances to break through against Boston left-hander Drew Pomeranz.
In the third inning, Manny Machado attempted to score from second on Jonathan Schoop’s single to left field, but was thrown out at home by Benintendi.
The Orioles also put runners at the corners with two outs on the sixth, but Mark Trumbo struck out.
Pomeranz allowed five hits and two walks over 6 1/3 scoreless innings.
“It’s some of the things we talked about in New York,” Showalter said. “When you get the combination of not operating on all cylinders offensively and really, really good pitching, those things can happen. But kept hoping we’d scratch one across. The left fielder made a real good throw and couldn’t push that one across.”
O’Day escapes in ninth
Right-hander Darren O’Day worked through a one-out double by Benintendi to pitch a scoreless top of the ninth inning despite facing the top of the batting order.
Benintendi’s double to right field was surrounded by three flyouts for O’Day’s fifth straight scoreless outing and 11th of his past 12.
Brach needed just seven pitches in a scoreless 10th before running into trouble in the 11th.