An inspired ninth-inning rally to tie their game against the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night went to waste as the Orioles opened their six-game West Coast trip with a frustrating 3-2 walk-off loss at Angel Stadium.
Struggling reliever Brad Brach allowed a bases-loaded, one-out RBI single to Justin Upton in the bottom of the ninth inning after the Orioles scored two runs in the top half to tie the score.
Brach allowed all four batters he faced to reach base. Taking over for Richard Bleier with one out and nobody on, he gave up singles to Martín Maldonado and Ian Kinsler, then walked Mike Trout on a 3-2 pitch before Upton's line drive down the left-field line.
"It's extremely frustrating," Brach said. "The team deserves better and just got to do a better job. You scratch and claw and get a couple wins like we did this weekend [against the Detroit Tigers] and when you come back in that game, you got to give your team at least a chance to score runs the next inning."
Brach was ahead in the count and had two strikes on Kinsler, Trout and Upton, but couldn't put them away.
"Some of the batters, got ahead and couldn't finish them," Brach said. "Just couldn't get the job done. Need to do a better job of getting ahead. Need to do a better job is all. … Anytime you get ahead 1-2, especially on Kinsler and Trout, I've had pretty good success against Trout. Just got to throw something near the zone and give myself a chance. Don't want the bases loaded there. I think those are the two at-bats. Got to make a better pitch when I get ahead."
Brach has allowed runs in three of his past four outings, yielding six runs over 3 1/3 innings over that stretch. His season ERA is 6.55.
Well past midnight on the East Coast, the Orioles bats woke up in Southern California in the top of the ninth.
Just two outs away from what was nearly an all-too-familiar script of offensive ineptitude, an Orioles team that recorded just one hit over the first eight innings orchestrated a ninth-inning rally.
The inning started with Trey Mancini's leadoff single to shallow right, followed by Machado's RBI double to left-center field that cut the lead in half. Center fielder Adam Jones then singled up the middle to score Machado and tie the game. All three hits were off sliders.
"We made some adjustments to the pitching patterns that are kind of going on all throughout baseball," Showalter said. "It's 2-1 breaking balls now, and that's just the way the game is being played nowadays. I know Adam hit a breaking ball. Mancini hit a breaking ball. Manny may have hit a breaking ball. The tough thing is seeing a breaking-ball ball and a breaking-ball strike. It's tough. It's very easy to sit in the ivory tower and talk about things. When you're in the batter's box it's a whole different deal."
Right-hander Alex Cobb seemed to have finally found his regular-season form. After struggling through his first four starts with his new team, Cobb found a rhythm of getting opposing hitters to pound the ball into the ground and letting his infielders make plays behind him.
Cobb held the Angels scoreless through five innings but had a small margin for error because the Orioles offense was hitless from the second through the eighth innings.
And in the sixth inning, Cobb was stung by a costly throwing error that produced a Little League home run followed by an over-the-fence variety to the next hitter he faced, marring an otherwise remarkable outing.
After three rocky starts to open the season, Cobb — who didn't have the benefit of spring training after signing with the Orioles on March 21 — seemed to make a major step forward Tuesday.
"That's Alex," Showalter said. "I thought each one got a little bit better. This was one where it was a good night to pitch. It was cold. The ball wasn't traveling. You see a lot of ground balls, a lot of attacking the zone, a lot of counts in his favor. That is the guy who was such a thorn for us when he was with Tampa and healthy."
Andrelton Simmons rapped a two-out double to left field in the sixth, and the relay man on the play, shortstop Machado, threw to second with Simmons off the bag. But his rifle throw caught everyone off guard, sailing past first baseman Chris Davis, who was covering, and into the Orioles dugout, enabling Simmons to score.
Four pitches later, Luis Valbuena tagged a splitter that Cobb left up in the zone and sent his over the high scoreboard in right field.
Before that sequence, Cobb had held the Angels offense in check, inducing 13 of 17 groundouts. In fact, Cobb recorded 11 of 12 groundouts through the first four innings and the Angels didn't put a fly ball in play against him until Kole Calhoun's flyout to left to open the bottom of the fifth.
Cobb, who hadn't gone deeper than 4 2/3 innings in any of his previous three starts, recorded his first quality start of the season, allowing two runs on seven hits over six innings.
"I think it just feels good to give the team a chance to win," Cobb said. "Personally where I am at on my road to getting fully back and fully comfortable, I would say I'm close. A lot of leaps that I have taken over the past four starts. So, you know, am I fully content and happy with where I'm at? I'm not. But, I am happy to walk off the mound knowing the team had a chance."