If you just look at the 9-3 final score from the Orioles' loss Tuesday night in Toronto, you’d never know that the club is riding a strange wave of reversible momentum.
They had a 5-0 lead Sunday night at Fenway Park and ushered the Boston Red Sox back into the game when Ubaldo Jimenez spoiled an otherwise impressive performance by giving up a three-run home riun in the sixth inning.
Then, Monday afternoon, the Orioles had a 6-0 lead when Wei-Yin Chen went from cruise control to unsuccessful damage control and allowed three runs in the fifth inning to start another Red Sox comeback that fell just one-run short.
Tuesday’s series opener against the Toronto Blue Jays also featured a good-sized lead, thanks to a three-run home run by Nelson Cruz in the sixth inning after Miguel Gonzalez had shut the Blue Jays out through five innings.
So what happens?
Gonzalez was unable to protect that lead for even a single out. Melky Cabrera reached base on an error by second baseman Steve Lombardozzi, Jose Bautista singled and Edwin Encarnacion crushed a ball into the upper reaches of Rogers Centre to tie the game.
That’s three sizeable leads in three straight games turned upside down by three-run middle innings. It probably doesn’t constitute a trend, but it probably does call into question the mindset of the starting pitchers involved, and the questions generated by those three comebacks don’t stop with the pitching staff.
The Orioles had a chance to slam-dunk knuckleballer R.A. Dickey in that three-run inning. They sent six more batters to the plate, but failed to score again.
They also had a chance to retake the lead in the seventh when Nick Markakis knocked Dickey out of the game with a double that put runners at second and third with no one out. The fact that the Blue Jays won, 9-3, should tell you that the Orioles found a way to not get a runner in from third with Cruz, Chris Davis and Adam Jones lined up to take their shots at the bullpen.
No one can say that facing the Blue Jays bullpen is a walk in the park, but Cruz couldn’t get the ball past the pitcher’s mound against reliever Neil Wagner and – after Brett Cecil pitched around Davis – Jones struck out weakly. He swung from his heels at three straight breaking balls that weren’t anywhere close to the strike zone. Cecil went on to strike out Steve Clevenger, and the Orioles offense faded into the woodwork.
The Blue Jays went on to hit two more three-run homers and turn the game into a blowout, the decisive shot delivered by third baseman Brett Lawrie, who came to the plate batting a sizzling .123.
It’s not the end of the world, but it is cause for concern that the Orioles have looked so vulnerable in three straight situations where they should have been showing their killer instinct.