The Orioles lost to the Toronto Blue Jays Saturday night at Oriole Park, 7-2. (Ulysses Muñoz / Baltimore Sun)
A suddenly-flagging Orioles offense couldn't take advantage of Toronto's misfortune after Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman left in the second inning Saturday with an injury after a scalding line drive by designated hitter Mark Trumbo hit him square in the right elbow.
The resulting 7-2 loss was a frustrating one before a cold, damp crowd of 14,815 at Camden Yards that dropped the Orioles to 69-67, and with all of their fellow American League wild-card aspirants winning, put them to 2½ games out of a playoff spot.
"It just changes the game," said right fielder Seth Smith, who homered in the eighth inning. "He's a really good pitcher, so you spend a good amount of time getting ready for that game and whenever he's out, it changes the dynamic. You know you're going to face probably two or three different guys the rest of the way, and in this case, it was a guy we haven't seen before and a guy we haven't seen much. It's a baseball game. We lost, and they scored more runs, and really, there's no more reason to look further into it."
A precautionary X-ray revealed a contusion and no break for Stroman, who took the worst of the ball hit at 107.5 mph, according to Statcast. The 26-year-old right-hander even tried to convince Toronto's coaches to allow him to stay in the game.
But considering he'd fanned three of the seven batters he faced, the Orioles might have felt fortunate to bring in seven-plus innings of Blue Jays relief.
Instead, a combination of left-hander Matt Dermody and right-hander Luis Santos combined to keep the Orioles off the board through seven innings until Smith hit his 13th home run of the season to open the eighth. Relievers Dominic Leone and Tim Mayza finished out Toronto's win, with all giving the Orioles bats trouble.
"I don't want it to come out as an excuse, but it's tough," manager Buck Showalter said of facing a set of three rookie hurlers. "And it's another thing that most who play the game don't like about this time of year. But it is what it is, and we're all playing underneath the same rules, so you deal with it."
Trumbo, center fielder Adam Jones and left fielder Trey Mancini had two hits apiece, with the Orioles' second run coming on another single up the middle for Trumbo in the ninth.
Left-hander Wade Miley tooka tough-luck loss Saturday after allowing a pair of runs on four hits with six strikeouts, giving way to debutante Richard Rodriguez in the seventh inning.
After a dicey first inning when Miley put two men on with two outs and need 24 pitches, things went smoothly for him. He'd retired 10 in a row before center fielder Kevin Pillar homered to left field to break a scoreless deadlock in the top of the fifth.
In the sixth inning, Miley loaded the bases with no outs on a walk and two singles, but only allowed one run to score on a one-out sacrifice fly by designated hitter Kendrys Morales.
"Wade pitched well," Showalter said. "I thought when he wiggled out of that jam in the sixth, it might be the difference in the ballgame right there. You like your chances 2-0."
"I thought it was pretty good," Miley said. "A mistake to Pillar right there, just not a good pitch there, 0-2. Limited the walks. Of those two I walked, the leadoff walk, obviously the leadoff walk scored in the sixth. I felt pretty good for the most part. I wasn't as crisp or as sharp, feeling-wise as I've been, but I was able battle through it and made some pretty decent pitches when I needed to."
He used a heavy dose of fastballs and sliders inside to jam a heavily right-handed Blue Jays lineup, lowering his ERA to 4.91. His 16 swinging strikes were the most he's had all season, and his highest amount since he had 16 for the Seattle Mariners on May 5, 2016 against the Houston Astros.
After three strong years in the high minors for the Orioles, Rodriguez's debut probably could have gone better. His first pitch was smacked off the left-field wall for a double by second baseman Darwin Barney, and he hit catcher Luke Maile with one out. Both scored on a towering three-run home run by third baseman Josh Donaldson that put Toronto up 5-0.
Rodriguez allowed a single to open the eighth inning before Alec Asher relieved him. Asher allowed a two-run home run to Barney that inning to account for Toronto's final two runs.
"I think he has a chance to be a good relief pitcher here in the major leagues," Showalter said. "I really do. He's got a good presentation, calm demeanor. He threw two good fastballs [to Donaldson], looked like he was going to wiggle out of that inning. Two good fastballs in a good spot there to get back in the count. … And then, he threw a ball where you don't throw the ball and paid the price to a good hitter. But he'll only get better."
Catcher Chance Sisco made his major league debut behind the plate in the ninth inning.