It's also about whom you lose to, how you lose and when you lose.
The Twins have not been particularly good lately. Heading into this four-game series Thursday night, they were 13-22 since sweeping the Orioles in Minnesota from July 6-8. The Twins had lost 12 of 17 before coming to Baltimore.
Now they've won two straight here and are 5-0 in the season series. That's particularly disturbing because the Twins (61-61) are right on the heels of the Orioles (62-59) in the wild-card race.
This night was also about how the Orioles lost. They were leading 3-1 going into the eighth. This year, they were 51-1 when they had the lead after seven innings. The Twins were 4-45 when trailing after seven.
But the Twins rallied against the usually reliable Darren O'Day, who was victimized by a leadoff walk and a hit batter as well as several bloop/weak hits. The club's rock-solid defense also failed him.
Jonathan Schoop just missed catching a popup down the right-field line. Right fielder Gerardo Parra missed the cutoff man on a single, attempting unsuccessfully to get the runner going to third instead of safely throwing to second base. The bad decision allowed the runner from first to move to second, and took the potential double play out of the mix (and made outfield bloops harder to catch). Adam Jones also over-ran a bloop single when he tried to barehand the ball (though that one's more excusable since the degree of difficulty on that play was severe).
The truth is the Orioles really lost this game by getting just five hits and one walk against Tommy Milone and company. But the spotlight will be on O'Day and the defense in the eighth. All season, the Orioles have depended on the bullpen and the defense to save them, but there's little margin for error if the club can't manufacture runs beyond the home run (sound familiar - postseason, 2014 and 2012?)
** After Parra homered in the sixth inning Friday to give the Orioles a 3-1 lead, I immediately received several tweets from Orioles fans proclaiming that Parra, a pending free agent, needs to be re-signed.
He's going to be an interesting case. The guy has five homers and 10 RBIs in 19 games as an Oriole. He has a career-high 14 homers already this season, including nine with the Milwaukee Brewers before the Orioles acquired him for minor league pitcher Zach Davies on July 31.
His career average is .280, and yet he is batting .319 this season at his two stops.
He's also a real good defender with a great arm. There's no question he is having a career year at a perfect time. The question the Orioles – or any suitor – must answer is whether this is simply a career year or if Parra has taken the next step at age 28. He wouldn't be the first to break out at 28, and keep it going for several years.
His market is hard to determine. He's already making over $6 million this year. He'll be in for a big raise. But he's not a huge name, either. Just a real good ballplayer, offensively and defensively.
The Orioles had one of those last year – Gold Glove defender, high average, little pop. Nick Markakis got four years and $44 million from the Atlanta Braves, and Markakis is more than three years older than Parra.
Bottom line is Parra likely won't break the bank this offseason, but he's going to get a real nice payday. Maybe the Orioles get a break if they negotiate now (which executive vice president Dan Duquette doesn't like to do during the season), and maybe they don't. But they traded for him thinking they'd have a chance to re-sign him if they desire. They should desire. We'll see.
** One other thing to consider here in terms of perspective and Parra: Andrew Miller.
Davies isn't the same quality of prospect as Eduardo Rodriguez, who the Orioles dealt away to the Boston Red Sox in July 2014 for Miller.
That one really hurt because of Rodriguez's upside, the fact he is still in the division and the realization that the Orioles barely made any attempt to bring back Miller in 2015. But the silver lining will always be that Miller the rental helped the Orioles into the postseason. And, for that, it was worth the steep price.