9/23/17 -- The Orioles lost to the visiting Tampa Bay Rays Saturday night, 9-6. (Ulysses Muñoz / Baltimore Sun)
Before their biggest home crowd in a month at Camden Yards, the Orioles played out an array of inevitable outcomes Saturday night that combine to explain plenty about their lost 2017 season.
With a 9-6 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays before an announced 42,802 fans Saturday, combined with a Minnesota Twins win, the Orioles were officially eliminated from playoff contention — a fate the past two weeks had consigned them to before the math officially did. At 74-82 with six games remaining, they also will finish the year with a losing record for the first time since 2011.
"I had told somebody that if that happens, let me know and I'd readdress it then," manager Buck Showalter said of the club being eliminated. "That's something I'll have to look at now that you've brought it up. I appreciate that. Take the good with the bad. I haven't looked at that kind of stuff. We've all been tunnel-vision trying to win as many games in a row as we can and see where it takes us. If that is the case — I'm sure I don't need to check your math — I've tried to stay out of that mentality. If it is the case, we'll readdress where we are."
They fell from relevance over the past two weeks in similar fashion to the way they fell to the Rays (76-79) on Saturday. So perhaps it was expected when their veteran starting pitcher failed to overcome an early-inning hurdle, the soft underbelly of the bullpen made things worse and even a ninth-inning outburst wasn't enough to overcome it.
It hasn't been going any other way for them this month. Saturday was no different.
"I just feel like when you really look at the entire season, not making the postseason is just extremely frustrating and disappointing," first baseman Chris Davis said. "It's a big letdown, then you look a little further and see we're not even going to finish .500, it just makes you scratch your head. I feel like anytime we've really needed to play our best ball and rattle off some wins, we haven't been able to put it together. If we were pitching well, we weren't hitting. If we were hitting, we weren't pitching well. That's just been the theme the entire season."
Jeremy Hellickson's final start at Camden Yards this season was too similar to many of his other starts for the Orioles, unfortunately for him in all the wrong ways.
When things go badly for Hellickson, as they did in a three-run third inning Saturday night, they go that way quickly.
Hellickson (8-11) had retired the first eight batters he faced on 28 pitches when he allowed his first single to shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria with two outs in the third inning. Kevin Kiermaier added a single shortly thereafter, and then Lucas Duda worked a nine-pitch at-bat that ended with a low liner onto the flag court for a three-run home run.
He lamented the two-out runs that have marred his time with the Orioles, saying it's something that's gotten in his head.
"Beside those three [batters], I felt good," Hellickson said. "That's happened way too many times this year, just two outs, nobody on. I just can't get that third out for some reason."
Oddly enough, that was the only inning Hellickson didn't face the minimum three batters. In the fifth inning, he helped his own cause by starting a double play to erase his leadoff walk, and an inning later, catcher Welington Castillo threw out his 24th attempted base stealer in 49 tries to negate a leadoff single.
"He gave us a good chance to win," Showalter said. "He deserved probably a little better fate, but it's good to see him rebound from his last outing."
Though he ended up with a quality start, Hellickson exited trailing 3-1 after six innings. With possibly one start remaining before his pending free agency this offseason, Hellickson is 2-6 with a 6.97 ERA since his July 28 trade from the Philadelphia Phillies.
An early run
Duda's home run erased an early Orioles lead gained in unconventional fashion.
Second baseman Jonathan Schoop doubled with two outs in the first inning, and scored on an infield single by center fielder Adam Jones that was misplayed by Duda. While he did well to range into the second base hole and scoop the ball, Duda's toss to Jake Odorizzi (10-8) covering the bag skipped into foul territory, and Jones ended up on third base.
Schoop singled in the third inning to put two on with two out after a walk by shortstop Tim Beckham, but that was the only Orioles hit until rookie Trey Mancini singled to open the seventh inning and extend his hitting streak to a career-high 13 games — the longest by an Oriole this year.
Schoop, Jones, and Mancini each had two-hit games. The rest of the team was hitless.
Left-hander Richard Bleier presided over the type of inning only a team with nothing to play for can put on in the seventh. After he hit right fielder Steven Souza Jr. on the foot with a fastball with one out, Souza went to second on an error by third baseman Manny Machado and scored on a single by catcher Wilson Ramos.
Both Ramos and Corey Dickerson advanced on a throwing error by right fielder Austin Hays, and Dickerson scored from third base on a sacrifice fly to center field.
The inning ended, however, when Hays leapt into the right-field wall for an acrobatic catch to prevent more runs and extra bases.
The ninth inning was just as unsightly, albeit without the errors, as Mike Wright allowed four runs on five hits before giving way to Tanner Scott for the final two outs.