BALTIMORE — It’s been rough to watch the Orioles play these past few weeks. They have seen their season fade away after sitting just one game out of the wildcard. As the final week of the season approaches, the Orioles have slipped so far downhill that they will be finishing with a losing record for the first time since 2011.
This weekend’s long series started on Thursday with arguably the Orioles’ best overall performance in weeks. Gabriel Ynoa got the start but there was a sense of uncertainty since he had failed to get to the fifth inning in his previous starts this month.
This was not the case on Thursday. Ynoa looked like a staple of the rotation as he managed to go eight innings, leading the O’s to a 3-1 win. You would definitely like to see Ynoa go deeper in those previous starts, but since joining the rotation he holds a 1-2 record and a 3.18 ERA.
All three of Baltimore’s runs on Thursday came in the first inning. Manny Machado hit his team-leading 33rd homer of the year to score the first two, and Trey Mancini followed with a an RBI single that scored Adam Jones.
On Friday, the O’s fell behind early and never got a chance to get back into it. Ubaldo Jimenez surrendered a grand slam to Wilson Ramos that put the Rays up 4-0 in the second frame. Tampa Bay would add to that lead in the next inning with an Evan Longoria home run and a RBI single by Adeiny Hechavarria. Jimenez would be chased out of the game after these runs, pushing his ERA to 6.81 on the year.
Tampa Bay went on to add two more runs in the fifth and ninth inning to cap off an 8-3 win.
Looking for a rebound on Saturday the Orioles struck first with a run in the first inning, but proceeded to give up nine unanswered runs between the third and ninth inning. Jeremy Hellickson turned in a decent outing, giving up three runs through six innings. After his exit, the Orioles bullpen imploded.
Richard Bleier gave up two unearned runs in the seventh and Mike Wright later gave up four more in the ninth. Down 9-1 with just three outs left, the O’s found a spark of offense but it was too little to late. Welington Castillo and Austin Hays started the five-run inning by scoring three with a pair of RBI doubles. Machado and Chris Davis both contributed an RBI single, but the O’s ultimately lost 9-6.
Dylan Bundy was slated to get the start in Sunday’s series finale but he was scratched and replaced by Chris Tillman a few hours before first pitch. It was later reported that Bundy suffered a left hamstring strain. There have been rumors of the Orioles shutting Bundy down for the remainder of the year and this might be the final push they need to do so.
Sunday also marked the final home game of the year for the O’s, and it was an emotional one. J.J Hardy was given the start at shortstop and received a standing ovation from the crowd. There are no concrete plans for Hardy’s future, but this was very likely his final game as on Oriole at Camden Yards.
Hardy kept the crowd on their feet when he hit a two-run homer in the fourth. When the veteran shortstop stepped into the box the O’s and Rays were tied at four, but Hardy was able to give his team a lead they would hold for the remainder of the game.
A home run by Chance Sisco added two more in the sixth and Davis capped off the 9-4 win with a RBI fielder’s choice in the seventh. The Orioles saved themselves from losing the series, but they still haven’t won one since the end of August.
The Orioles will hit the road on Tuesday to close out their 2017 season. The first stop will be Pittsburgh for a quick two-game series. After that the O’s will face Tampa Bay one last time next weekend.
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