The Orioles moved to the brink of their 100th loss of the season on Thursday night, but it’ll be tough to match No. 99 for originality.
In a season of frustrating late-inning collapses, the Orioles squandered a chance to win a series against the newly crowned National League West champion Dodgers, suffering a 4-2 defeat because of a two-run passed ball by Pedro Severino on what should have been an inning-ending strikeout.
It almost doesn’t sound possible, and it would not have been if third baseman Rio Ruiz hadn’t already made a two-out error to keep the sixth inning alive.
The Orioles were leading by a run going into that inning and it would have been quite a feather to cap their final interleague series of the year with a second straight victory over a team that seems positioned very well to reach the World Series for the third straight year.
It also would have been nice if the the Orioles defense could have held things together long enough to bail out starting pitcher Dylan Bundy, who had thrown a solid five innings before running into serious trouble in the sixth.
Bundy allowed a leadoff double to Dodgers designated hitter A.J. Pollock, a game-tying bloop single to slugger Cody Bellinger and a walk to shortstop Corey Seager before getting an out, but he retired the next two batters and induced a fairly routine grounder to third that should have quelled the threat.
“He pitched absolutely outstanding,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We just gave them extra outs and a couple runs and it’s just disappointing. He pitches out of that jam twice. We just didn’t make the plays. We didn’t play fundamental baseball tonight.”
Ruiz moved to his left and seemed ready to field the ball and relay it to second base for an inning-ending force out, but simply fumbled it and allowed the Dodgers to load the bases. Catcher Russell Martin came up and battled Bundy to a full count before swinging through a high fastball that also would have ended the inning if the pitch had not glanced off the glove of Orioles catcher Pedro Severino and skipped to the backstop.
Since the runners were in motion on the full-count pitch and Bundy didn’t realize he needed to cover the plate on the play, two runs scored, and those two runs allowed the Dodgers to head on to New York for a weekend series against the Mets without suffering the indignity having Tuesday night’s division title celebration sullied by a two-loss hangover.
There were other issues in the inning, including an overthrow by left fielder Anthony Santander and a disputed two-strike check swing by Martin that also would have ended the inning if first base umpire Jim Wolf had ruled it a strike.
“Where do I start,” Hyde said.
He didn’t want to start with the error, because Ruiz hasn’t made very many of them this season.
“The play with Rio ... he’s been sure-handed all year,” Hyde said. “That’s only his seventh error of the year, so Rio has done a great job defensively. That’s unfortunate. Errors happen. You move on. I’ve really been happy with Rio’s defense all season.”
By all accounts, Severino just lost sight of the final pitch to Martin, who swung through a high fastball.
“I’m supposed to catch the ball right there,” Severino said. “They can’t score, and it’s 2-2 if I catch that ball. When he swung, I lost the ball, so next time I have to do a better job.”
Though it was raining at the time, Severino said he had “no excuses” for failing to catch the ball and said the defense failed Bundy throughout the inning.
“That’s the team," he said. “It’s a situation where that ball at third base, that’s an error, and I can catch that ball right there. Bundy did a great job making pitches, and we’ve got to do a better job next time.”
The game had started with some promise for the Orioles. Dodgers starter Rich Hill, who was making his first start since June 19 because of a forearm flexor injury, spun out of control in a strange outing that featured two strikeouts, two walks and two hit batters before manager Dave Roberts removed him from the game with the bases loaded and two outs in the first inning. Hill reportedly suffered a strained MCL in his left knee.
However, the only run scored on a bases-loaded walk to Austin Hays and the Orioles would not score again until Severino led off the bottom of the fifth inning with his 13th home run of the season into the left-field bleachers, which marked the Orioles’ first hit of the game.
Bundy threw 103 pitches and allowed four runs on six hits over 5 2/3 innings, but it was the two unearned runs in the sixth that cost him his 14th loss in 20 decisions this season. If he was frustrated by another tough loss, he tried not to show it.