What's the biggest difference between baseball's best and worst teams through 100 games? Look no further than the Orioles' 5-3 loss to the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards on Monday night.
Every time the high-flying Red Sox got a runner on, especially against Orioles starter Kevin Gausman, he came around to score. And every time the Orioles did it against Boston starter Rick Porcello, they did something regrettable to keep themselves scoreless and headed for a fourth straight loss.
“That’s kind of the difference,” manager Buck Showalter said.
It all conspired to put the Orioles (28-73) even further along the road to one of baseball’s highest loss totals ever, and the Red Sox (71-31) one step better on the path to one of the best records of all time.
In both cases, it’s pretty clear why.
In the first inning, after Gausman was made to wait through a 41-minute rain delay in the middle of his nine-pitch inning, it was Tim Beckham singling to open the day for the Orioles. He also ended the inning when he was caught off first base and wrong-footed by catcher Sandy León, who started a rundown the Orioles' shortstop couldn't escape.
The next batter, Boston's Mitch Moreland, homered off Gausman in the second to put the Orioles down 1-0. They'd have chances to pull back, but wouldn't take them.
Left fielder Trey Mancini doubled down the left-field line with two outs in the second but was left there. Right fielder Jace Peterson walked with one out in the third, but on the other side of a 19-minute rain delay, he was thrown out at home by so much that he didn't even bother sliding.
That came after Jonathan Schoop’s double off the left-field wall, which Andrew Benintendi fielded and then threw to second base. But Xander Bogaerts cut off that relay and surprised Orioles third base coach Bobby Dickerson, who was waving Peterson around third, by throwing home. León was waiting for Peterson with the ball in his glove and plenty of time to spare.
An inning later, Adam Jones was on first with a leadoff single and made it all the way to third on a groundout and a balk, but didn't score. Boston was about to make the Orioles rue their missed chances.
The Red Sox’s decisive fifth began the way so many big innings against the Orioles do: with frustrating outfield defense. Peterson, making his 10th career appearance in right field, had a long way to run on Bogaerts’ towering but well-placed ball down the right-field line. He slid, but it fell in beside him for a double.
“We just couldn’t get to it,” Showalter said.
According to MLB's Statcast data, similar batted balls are hits just 1 percent of the time. The Orioles often prove those numbers wrong, and rarely in a good way. Gausman didn't help himself, though, walking three straight before striking out Mookie Betts. But a two-out, automatic double by Benintendi scored two and chased Gausman. J.D. Martinez plated the fifth run on Gausman's ledger with an infield single to shortstop off reliever Miguel Castro. Gausman ended up allowing six base runners — three walks and three hits. Five ended up scoring.
Gausman said he lost the feel for his split-fingered fastball in that fifth inning, which explained how he walked three straight left-handed batters at the bottom of the lineup.
“I got a big strikeout, but after I get a guy like that out, I’ve got to shut the door,” Gausman said. “As a pitcher who does pretty well without lefties, to walk three in a row is pretty frustrating.”
Castro kept Boston down the rest of the way, with Jhan Maríñez loading the bases in a scoreless ninth. Porcello exited after six strong innings, helped by Boston center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who ran straight back and leapt to catch a wall-bound drive by Trey Mancini and take extra bases away from him.
A home run by Schoop in the eighth inning prevented the Orioles’ 10th shutout this season. It scored Tim Beckham, who had just picked up his second infield single of the game, making it Schoop’s first nonsolo home run of his 13 this season.
Schoop and Beckham had two hits apiece in the loss. Caleb Joseph drove in the Orioles’ remaining run in the ninth.
“Any loss is frustration,” Schoop said. “We know we’re playing, Boston’s a good team, but we know we’re a good team. Things aren’t going our way. We’ve got to find a way. I think Porcello was pretty good today. I think Gausman was pretty good today, too. It was just one inning that didn’t go our way.”