BALTIMORE — A four game sweep is difficult to accomplish no matter who you play. Perhaps that's why a handful of fans saw potential in salvaging the Orioles season after they beat up the Rangers last week. Both the offense and the pitching impressed in that series, but it fails to accurately snapshot this team's potential.
A majority of the Orioles fan base remained unconvinced following the Rangers series and they were proven right when the Orioles ran into one of the best teams in baseball this weekend. It seemed like the Astros were always one step ahead of the O's, but you would expect nothing less of a team that's in contention for a World Series.
It all started on Friday when Ubaldo Jimenez brought everyone back down to reality with a terrible start. Jimenez gave up five runs in the first two innings and somehow managed to make it through 5.1 before getting pulled. The bullpen didn't fare any better. Richard Bleier surrendered two more runs in 2.2 innings of relief.
Going into the bottom of the eighth the Orioles were down 8-1 and faced a blowout loss. You have to give the offense credit for what they did in the next two innings because it should have been more than enough for a win. Baltimore batters scored six runs in the final two innings to come back and make it a one-run game.
Mark Trumbo scored one with an RBI single while Adam Jones added two more with a double. With one out in the ninth, Jonathan Schoop put his team right back in the game with a three-run homer. Chris Davis and Trumbo could not follow the home run up, and the O's fell just shy of a comeback.
Saturdays game continued the trend of unreliable pitching. Chris Tillman managed to put together a decent outing and had little trouble through his first four innings. After surrendering his first run in the fifth, Tillman composed himself and made it out of the inning. A two-run homer would eventually chase him with one away in the sixth. The Orioles still held a 4-3 lead.
Usually, the fans frustration points at the starting rotation and not the bullpen, but Saturdays game fell mostly on the shoulders of the relievers. Darren O'Day entered the game after Tillman and proceeded to give up the lead on a three-run homer. The O's offense was held scoreless for the remainder of the game as Houston tacked on two more in the late innings to complete an 8-4 win.
Sunday's series finale saw the Orioles jump out to an early 3-0 lead. After loading the bases with no outs, Hyun Soo Kim got hit by a pitch, allowing Chris Davis to score. Ruben Tejada messed up the momentum by grounding into a double play, but another run scored on the play. Adam Jones capped off the inning with an RBI single to score the third run.
The O's offense put up another three runs by the end of the sixth thanks to Trey Mancini and Chris Davis. Mancini accounted for two runs with an RBI single and double while Davis brought in another run on a sacrifice fly.
Dylan Bundy started his afternoon pretty effectively. Outside of a three run homer by Jose Altuve, he pitched fairly well. Things quickly fell apart in the sixth. Nori Aoki launched a three-run homer to tie the game at 6, chasing Bundy out of the game. Miguel Castro entered the game in relief and gave up the lead on a sacrifice fly. All seven runs attributed to Bundy, raising his ERA to a season-high 4.53.
Unlike Saturday, the O's offense did not quit. A solo home run by Mark Trumbo tied the game again in the seventh inning. Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop gave the O's a 9-7 lead with a sacrifice fly and RBI single in the eighth.
Zach Britton entered the game in the ninth for his first save attempt since suffering an arm injury in April. Britton quickly struck out the first two batters and completed his sixth save of the year.
This series showed why there's little confidence in the Orioles this season. No one denies that the Rangers series was fun to watch, but the offense has seen their efforts ruined by poor pitching all season. Just for perspective, the O's offense averages 4.66 runs per game, while the pitching staff gives up 5.41 per game.
The O's wrapped up their long home stand this weekend and will now be hitting the road for the next week. A divisional matchup against the Rays will start on Monday and then the Orioles will travel to Texas for a rematch against the Rangers next weekend.
Image Credit: Associated Press