Win three straight against the Los Angeles Angels this weekend, and the Orioles would have claimed temporary ownership of at least one of the two AL wild cards.
That won't happen by Sunday now for the Orioles, not after Friday's 8-4 thumping by the AL wild card-leading Angels (58-50).
"Of course you want to win every game, but we lose one and we know this is a really good team," said second baseman Jonathan Schoop, who had one of two Orioles homers in the loss. "We'll come back [Saturday] and try to win. That's all we can do. Go out there and play hard and try to do that every game."
Friday night was billed as an intriguing pitching matchup between two highly regarded 24-year-olds beginning to realize their potential.
Gausman had allowed just two runs total in his previous two outings; Heaney hadn't given up more than two runs in any of his seven starts in 2015.
Pitching in front of an announced 42,578, neither starter made it through the sixth; both pitched 5 2/3 innings with Gausman giving up six runs and Heaney four.
"It seemed like every time we took the lead I went out there and didn't put up a scoreless inning," said Gausman (2-3), who gave up nine hits and two walks. "Any time you do that, and you struggle against the bottom half of the lineup like I did, eventually it's going to hurt you."
Gausman struck out the first two batters he faced in the first and then Mike Trout came to the plate on his 24th birthday.
The defending AL MVP had homered on two of his previous three birthdays in the majors. He quickly made it three of four, lining a 97-mph fastball from Gausman over the center-field wall for his AL-best 33rd home run of the season.
"He's trying to get the fastball to a different part of the plate and [Trout] got it," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "If he got it where he is trying to get it, he's probably got a lot better chance to get an out."
That was the story of Gausman's night. He had several two-strike counts and he couldn't get strike three – he had four total strikeouts - or weak contact. The Angels scored five of their eight runs with two outs.
"A lot of hits in two-strike counts. It kind of seemed like when I wanted to throw it off the plate I couldn't and when I wanted to bury it or elevate it I couldn't do it," Gausman said. "I threw a lot of real good pitches to get to two strikes, but I couldn't finish them."
The Orioles tied it in the third on an RBI single by Adam Jones. The Orioles had three hits in the inning, but two were thrown out on the base paths.
Nolan Reimold attempted to go from first to third on Gerardo Parra's single to right, but Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun unleashed a perfect throw to get a sliding Reimold. One batter later, Parra scored on Jones' deep fly off the center-field wall. Trout barehanded the bounce and threw to second to get Jones, who attempted to slide into second at the last moment and was tagged on the foot.
The Orioles took a 3-1 lead in the fourth, when Schoop hit a laser to left for a two-run shot and his eighth homer of the season.
"Maybe I was kind of trying to do too much, especially that one inning with Trout leading off and Pujols," Gausman said. "Those guys can swing it and I think I tried to be a little too fine and I ended up walking both of them."
It remained tied until the sixth, when catcher Matt Wieters hit a full-count sinker from Heaney into the bullpen in left. The solo homer was his fifth of the year. Heaney left three batters later after designated hitter Junior Lake, in his first game as an Oriole, hit a two-out double down the third-base line. Fernando Salas (2-1) entered and struck out Reimold, but Heaney was still charged with four runs on 10 hits and a walk – his worst outing as an Angel.
"They had the big inning today and I don't think we had a big inning," Wieters said. "And a lot of times that's what's going to win you a ballgame - if you can find an inning where you can score three or more runs, you have a chance to win that day."
Gausman couldn't hold the lead in the Angels' three-run sixth, allowing a two-run, two-out, two-strike double to Chris Iannetta on a 99-mph fastball.
"The worst pitch I threw all day was the last one, that's definitely what's frustrating," Gausman said. "I get out of that right there and it's a pretty solid outing and more importantly we have the lead going into the seventh. That's pretty tough."
Wieters said he considered calling for a breaking ball, but instead stuck with Gausman's impressive heat. In retrospect, he said he should have gotten Iannetta off-balance.
"I'm kicking myself for calling time and changing my mind a little bit," Wieters said. "It happens in a game and you learn from it and hopefully move forward."
The Angels scored two more in the seventh on a 456-foot blast by pinch hitter C.J. Cron on reliever Brad Brach's first pitch of the evening. It was Los Angeles' first pinch-hit homer of 2015.
The Orioles bullpen, which has been so effective this season, couldn't keep things close Friday.
"Coming into a situation where [the Angels] have got some momentum going, you've really got to make some quality pitches," Wieters said. "Brad didn't actually throw a bad pitch, that [Cron] hit out there. It was just probably a little lower than what we wanted. It's a tough situation to come into and they've been great all year."
If there was a bright spot from the bullpen's performance Friday it's that Rule 5 right-hander Jason Garcia pitched for the first time since May 10 and threw a scoreless inning. It wasn't flawless – he walked a batter – but he consistently hit 95 to 97 mph with his fastball, renewed velocity after dealing with shoulder tendinitis for much of the year.
"He is healthy now," Showalter said of Garcia, who was activated from the 60-day disabled list and promoted from Double-A Bowie on Thursday. "You can see the arm strength is back. He's got a few more bullets."
- Major League Baseball
- Baltimore Orioles
- Los Angeles Angels
- Andrew Heaney
- Mike Trout
- Adam Jones
- American League West
- Gerardo Parra
- Buck Showalter
- Jonathan Schoop
- Albert Pujols
- MLB Most Valuable Player Award
- American League East
- Minnesota Twins
- Toronto Blue Jays
- David DeJesus
- Chris Iannetta
- David Murphy
- Johnny Giavotella