The Orioles opened their final homestand of the season with one of those games that would tear a team’s heart out if it really meant anything.
They entered the eighth inning with a lead and ended the evening with their 102nd loss, falling 8-5 to the Toronto Blue Jays before an announced crowd of 9,280 at Camden Yards.
Jays slugger Justin Smoak led off the ninth inning with a mammoth home run off reliever Mychal Givens to put the Jays ahead in a back-and forth game that had Trey Mancini’s fingerprints all over it.
Mancini gave the Orioles the early lead in his first at-bat, tied the game in his third at-bat and put the O’s back ahead in his fourth at-bat, but his four-RBI performance was rendered moot in a four-run Toronto ninth that featured a highlight-film moment that was both electrifying and terrifying.
Jays rookie Cavan Biggio became the third in Blue Jays history to hit for the cycle when he lined a ball off the fence in center field, but Mason Williams crashed into the fence so hard trying to catch the ball that he lay on the warning track for several minutes before leaving the field under his own power.
Manager Brandon Hyde said after the game that Williams did not exhibit concussion symptoms but would remain under observation over night.
It was Biggio’s first career four-hit game and the first Jays cycle since Jeff Frye turned the trick in 2001. It was also the first cycle by any opposing player at Oriole Park. Three O’s have had cycles here, most recently Jonathan Villar on Aug. 5 against the Yankees.
Mancini didn’t waste any time resuming his late-season power surge. He came up in the first inning with Dwight Smith Jr. on first base and launched a long home run to center field to stake Orioles first-time starter Chandler Shepherd to a quick lead.
It was Mancini’s fourth home run in his last five games and he was far from through. He also delivered a game-tying sacrifice fly in the fifth that scored Chance Sisco on a close play at the plate and a go-ahead single in the seventh that scored Steve Wilkerson, who came on as a pinch runner after Cisco led off the inning with a double.
The home run was his 34th of the season and the four RBIs gave him a total over 11 over the past five games. He has hit safely in 17 of his last 19 games.
"I think anybody wants to finish the year strong,'' Mancini said. “Again, it sounds cliche, but it’s honestly what I think about when I go up to the plate is just trying to do what I can to help the team win and try to have a good at-bat.”
Shortstop Jonathan Villar also homered for the Orioles, hitting his 22nd of the year in the ninth inning.
The offensive highlights, however, were not enough to win either the game or the approval of the Orioles manager who said he was far from happy with the overall effort of the team after several sloppy plays and a some bad base running.
“I was really disappointed, to be honest." Hyde said. "I was disappointed from the second inning on. I feel like for the most part this year, we’ve competed our tails off. We just fell short quite a few times. But I just thought we made a lot of mistakes tonight. I thought we played like a really tired team, and we need better effort.”
Mancini went even further than that.
“Tonight was one of our worst games of the year, if not the worst,'' he said. “Overall, we’re proud of how we played and have gone about our business all year. We’ve obviously lost a lot of games that we could have won and we’ve made some mistakes, but tonight was just a little different for some reason. ... There were several plays that could have been made and we didn’t and made a couple baserunning mistakes. It just felt like a very winnable game there and we kind of let it slip away.”
Shepherd, who was claimed off waivers from the Chicago Cubs in late May, was making his third big league appearance. He pitched a solid four innings at Yankee Stadium in his major league debut on Aug. 13, returned to Triple-A Norfolk for three appearances and then rejoined the Orioles for the September roster expansion.
He pitched one other time in relief, allowing two runs in three innings against the Rangers at Oriole Park on Sept. 7.
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In his first big league start, he pitched four innings and allowed three runs on four hits, two of which left the yard. Randal Grichuk sliced the early Orioles lead in half with a solo shot to right field in the second inning and Biggio launched a two-run show that gave the Blue Jays the lead in the third.