In a blink, really in one rushed and errant throw Wednesday, the Orioles’ faint division title hopes expired, and their grasp on the American League Wild Card loosened even more.
They also officially dropped the season series to the Red Sox, 10-8 with one to go. That stat doesn’t really mean much anymore, because these two teams aren’t ending with identical records.
The Red Sox (88-64) are now six games ahead of the Orioles (82-70) with 10 to play.
Boston goes for the four-game sweep Thursday at Camden Yards with ace David Price on the mound against the Orioles’ Chris Tillman.
A four-game sweep is exceptionally hard to do, especially in September against a division rival.
And if the Red Sox win Thursday, they will have completed two, four-game sweeps in a row. They did it to the New York Yankees in Fenway before coming to Baltimore.
“It’s obviously not how we planned on this series going,” said Orioles reliever Brad Brach. “Disappointed in losing the first three, but like everybody’s gonna tell you, we need to just focus on tomorrow and forget about tonight. It is what it is. We lost. It’s over now.”
The Orioles were leading 1-0 in the sixth and the resurgent Ubaldo Jimenez was again doing his part. He left with one out and two on in the sixth, yielding to Brach, who normally pitches in the eighth.
But these outs were crucial, and so Brach received the ball to face Aaron Hill, who hit a swinging bunt in between Brach and catcher Matt Wieters. The two converged, with Wieters finally calling off Brach, but the momentary hesitation allowed Hill to beat the throw.
Brach then fanned Jackie Bradley Jr., and got Sandy Leon to ground to the right side. First baseman Chris Davis ranged to his right, picked up the ball and then threw hard and low to Brach, who was covering first.
The ball skipped away on the Davis error, Leon was safe and two runs scored.
“Obviously, just didn’t make a very good throw on it. In that situation right there, I know how important it is to get the final out with the bases loaded,” Davis said. “Probably a ball I could’ve stayed back on and just gone to the bag, but I just reacted. And when I went to throw it, it just kinda stuck in my hand and I pulled it, threw it, and didn’t even give Brad really a shot to catch it.”
On the next pitch, Brach surrendered a homer to rookie Andrew Benintendi – the Red Sox went up 5-1 and another Orioles’ unraveling was complete.
“I wish I could have maybe just thrown a ball there or something out of the zone,” Brach said. “Just kind of re-set there, because it would have been nice to have one extra pitch. Obviously, I wasn’t really thinking clear there for that one pitch and unfortunately he made me pay for it.”
That was it. The Orioles’ offense then went feebly into the night. They’ve scored just five runs in these past three games and nine in their last five.
Somehow, they continue to cling to an AL Wild Card spot, but now Houston is just a game out and Detroit and Seattle are looming, too.
It was crunch time to start the week. Now, there’s absolutely no margin for error.
“You just can’t worry about the numbers. You can’t worry about anything from now on,” Brach said. “It’s just one-game seasons every day.”