The Orioles’ bullpen blew it Friday night, giving up one run in the top of the ninth and three more in the 10th in a 6-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Orioles’ bullpen also preserved the game so it would be close late – surviving a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the sixth, and dancing around more trouble in the seventh.
You never want to lose a game you should win. And the Orioles were one strike away from victory in the ninth when Adeiny Hechavarria singled against Brad Brach to tie it at 3-3. Then Darren O’Day served up a three-run homer in the 10th to Steven Souza Jr.
So, yeah, the bullpen gave it up, but frankly this group is still the strength of the club. After a bit of a hiccup, Brach, O’Day and company have been solid.
“I think we’ve righted the ship a little bit. We’re pitching well lately. We’re not robots. We make mistakes,” O’Day said. “I wasn’t all that sharp tonight. I can’t walk the leadoff guy. I’m not trying to throw a meatball, but I threw some good pitches.”
O’Day said he struck out Souza on a slider last week at Tampa and was comfortable throwing the pitch again. He just didn’t execute it.
“It wasn’t a very good one. I can’t make that mistake in that situation,” O’Day said. “So, not good.”
Brach was charged with his fourth blown save – but his first since May 16 in Detroit. He had converted seven in a row.
And Friday’s was fluky. A two-out walk and then a balk and a wild pitch put the Rays’ tying runner at third base to set up Hechavarria’s hit.
“You can’t walk a guy there. Especially when you have two strikes on him and he’s at the bottom of the order,” Brach said. “I should’ve just challenged him there. The walk was definitely the huge thing. But I’ve gotta keep my composure out there and not let the walk get to me. That just can’t happen.”
Brach said he’s not sure what happened with the balk. He never thought he was set. But it happened and there’s not much that can be done about it. About any of it really. It was just a bad set of events that was exasperated because the Orioles were a strike away from victory.
“It was just one walk, one base hit tonight, unfortunately timed-up together, it gave them a run and that wild pitch there didn’t help any causes either,” Brach said. “It’s one of those things you’ve just got to forget about it and come out tomorrow and, if I get another opportunity, just shut the door.”
More help is coming. Closer Zach Britton pitched a perfect inning for High-A Frederick and will have one more rehab outing – with Triple-A Norfolk – before being activated Wednesday in Milwaukee, assuming all goes well.
And the Orioles got a major boost Friday when Miguel Castro entered with the bases loaded in the sixth and picked up a double-play groundout and a strikeout. Richard Bleier contributed two key strikeouts in the seventh and Mychal Givens pitched a scoreless eighth.
So, yeah, ultimately Friday’s loss sits with the bullpen, but that’s not a group I’m particularly worried about.
Tillman pitches well for most of Friday
Orioles right-hander Chris Tillman lasted five innings Friday, and was bailed out of a rocky sixth, in a no-decision.
It was a passable performance: Seven hits, two walks, two runs and five strikeouts in five-plus innings.
“I felt pretty good from the get-go,” he said. “I was able to command the fastball to both sides and (the bullpen) definitely saved my butt tonight.”
Despite allowing a two-run homer to Wilson Ramos in the second, Tillman had a relatively smooth first five innings. Then he ran into trouble in the sixth, giving up a leadoff single and then issuing his only two walks of the night before being pulled for Castro.
Tillman threw 92 pitches, and that’s not ideal. But he his fastball velocity was up, his pitches were crisper and his arm slot looked good.
And, though he doesn’t make excuses, Tillman’s wife is due at any moment with the couple’s first child. There was a thought he might not make the start. So, give him credit for blocking that out, too.
“You know, I’m not really thinking about it. I feel like I was completely there tonight. My focus was on getting guys out and not elsewhere,” Tillman said. “I feel like every time I step in the clubhouse, that’s how it’s going to be. The next (start), whether it happens or not, we’ll see.”
Friday night was the Orioles’ 79th game. It was also their 11th that ended up in extra innings. That’s most in the American League. The Rays are second with nine.
The Orioles played in 18 extra-inning games in 2012 – and we thought that was a bunch. They are on pace for 22 this year. It’s one of those inexplicable stats, but the Orioles play a lot of close games and have a quick-score offense with an abundance of power. So, there’s some explanation, I suppose.
They are now 9-2 in extra innings; they hadn’t lost one since April 28, when they were beat 14-11 in 10 innings at Yankee Stadium.