The Orioles have suffered some frustrating losses over the course of this painful season, but it’s hard to imagine any of them comparing to the carnage that took place on Wednesday night.
The O’s busted out to a six-run lead in the early innings and seemed to stave off a seventh-inning comeback attempt by the Toronto Blue Jays, only to suffer another major bullpen implosion on the way to a 11-10 loss before what was left of an announced crowd of 9,066 at Camden Yards.
The Jays came back from a four-run deficit in the top of the ninth inning against right-hander Miguel Castro, who allowed a dramatic two-out grand slam to right fielder Randal Grichuk as part of a six-run meltdown that sabotaged the young reliever’s late-season resurgence.
It doesn’t get much worse than that, or did it?
The Orioles looked like they would wipe away all that disappointment when Austin Hays opened the bottom of the ninth with a single and Mark Trumbo walked to bring the potential winning run to the plate with no one out.
Maybe the baseball gods were just teasing them, because Pedro Severino came up and hit a towering shot to left that looked to all like it would be a walkoff three-run homer, but the breeze apparently was blowing in and left fielder Billy McKinny caught the ball at the warning track.
Still, the O’s went on to score a run on DJ Stewart’s third hit of the game and had the potential tying and winning runs in scoring position with one out, but the two guys who did most of the offensive damage earlier in the game could not get it done at the end.
Jonathan Villar popped out and Trey Mancini bounced out to second base to end the game.
"I thought Sevvy hit that ball out before that,'' manager Brandon Hyde said. “I thought that was a homer. Right two guys up, and it just didn’t happen. But having those two guys up in that situation, they both have been swinging the bat really well, and I we just didn’t score there.”
On the night after Hyde could not conceal his disappointment with the clumsy performance of his team in Tuesday’s series opener, the Orioles appeared to get the message.
They came back on Wednesday and looked like a completely different club, at least through the early innings.
If you hadn’t already noticed, this is a young, rebuilding team and consistency has always been in short supply. The O’s depended entirely on Mancini the night before and spread the wealth all through the lineup on the way to what seemed certain to be their 50th victory of the season.
Mancini was right in the middle of it again, delivering a two-run double in the second inning that accounted for his 89th and 90th RBIs of the season, but the Orioles offense was already in full swing by that time.
Anthony Santander, Rio Ruiz and Hays had rattled off consecutive two-out doubles in the first inning to score two runs against Jays starter Clay Buchholz. Mancini’s second-inning double gave Orioles starter Dylan Bundy more breathing room, before Villar and Santander homered in the fourth to give the O’s a 7-1 lead.
It was Santander’s 19th homer of the season and it appeared to portend a rare blowout, especially after Bundy had shaken off some early control problems to allow just one run and strike out eight over five innings. But in this second straight season of 100-plus losses, things are seldom that simple.
The Orioles would have to sweat this one out as the bullpen helped usher the Jays back into the game. Tanner Scott came in to spell Bundy and allowed a run on three singles in the sixty and the Jays teed off on reliever Shawn Armstrong in the seventh.
Armstrong had come on to get the final out of the sixth, then came back to to allow a leadoff single to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and a walk to catcher Reese McGuire before center fielder Teoscar Hernandez hit a mammoth three-run homer well into the center field bleachers.
Suddenly, it was a two-run game and the small crowd had to be having flashbacks to Tuesday night’s late-inning meltdown by Mychal Givens.
This time, it looked like it would be different. The Orioles added an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh on a sacrifice fly by Stewart and Villar scored another on a sacrifice fly by Mancini in the eighth to re-establish a seemingly comfortable lead.
In between, Givens bounced back with a clean eighth inning before Castro came on to pitch the ninth.
Castro struck out Hernandez to open the inning, then wrapped two walks around a single to load the bases. He struck out Bo Bichette and the Jays were down to their last out before Cavan Biggio singled in a run and brought Grichuk to the plate.
"There are good days and bad days,'' Castro said through interpreter Ramon Alarcon. “Unfortunately, today was a bad day for me. I think it was just a pitch that cost me the game.”
Mancini remains on a major late-season roll. It was the fourth time in the last six games that he has driven in at least three runs. Over that span he’s batting .407 with 11 hits, four home runs and 14 RBI.
Villar also had a huge night. He had three hits, including his 23rd home run, and would have had another home run if Jays left fielder Derek Fisher had not reached over the fence in the first inning to prevent it.
"I love the way we were playing early,'' Hyde said. “We swung the bat great, were running the bases well early. Dylan Bundy had a couple tough innings early but bounced back and gave us five really good innings and left with a nice lead, grinded through that fifth inning, Tanner Scott came out of the bullpen and was throwing strikes. ... (Ryan) Eades was OK, (Paul) Fry did a nice job getting a left-hander out. Givens faced the middle of the order and we had a four-run lead in the ninth and can’t get it done.”