One by one, the Orioles cited their fight-back from a 9-2 deficit to bring the final score to 11-8 as a sign of their resilience, which they believe will help them survive this daunting 2-0 American League Division Series deficit to the Texas Rangers.
Fair play. It also represents a massive missed opportunity, considering how they fell behind in the first place. The more runs they tacked on, from Gunnar Henderson’s home run in the fifth to Aaron Hicks’ three-run blast in the ninth, the more it felt like they had fumbled a chance to even this series before the game even really got going.
They put some good swings on Jordan Montgomery. They got to Texas’ bullpen, eventually. They were down so badly at that point that it didn’t really matter — and no amount of clear-eyed logic will make the manner that deficit was built make sense in the disappointment of this weekend.
The Orioles’ plans have worked out so often this year. They didn’t in several ways on Sunday.
Grayson Rodriguez didn’t survive the second inning because the Orioles game-planned out a fastball-heavy approach, one he said came out of the club’s desire for him to get early contact on the pitch against an aggressive Rangers lineup. Early contact would allow him to get deep into the game, and while there’s no doubting the value of the baseball strategy, that desire for Rodriguez to give the Orioles’ length probably stemmed from a lack of viable alternatives.
When that fastball-heavy approach didn’t work — even as Rodriguez’s secondary pitches seemed to be effective — they were left with a pitching strategy that let the game get out of reach. Danny Coulombe faced one batter before giving way to Bryan Baker for the third. He walked everyone he faced, and they all scored on a grand slam by Mitch Garver off Jacob Webb.
Hyde said he wanted Baker to get the bottom of the order, same as the plan with Webb Saturday. Both times, the execution on the mound let him down.
Beyond that, things set up fine — Jack Flaherty gave his version of length with two innings of one-run ball, using 46 pitches. Hyde said he did an “OK job.” Then, Tyler Wells, Cionel Pérez, and Yennier Canó pitched as well as you’d expect.
Kyle Gibson was in the bullpen for emergency purposes, and Dean Kremer was in the dugout with the rest of the starters. The cost of keeping those starters in reserve – something they wouldn’t have had to do were John Means healthy or had they included another starter on the roster – meant they kept two of their best pitchers out of the mix Sunday, and used the rest when the game was out of reach.
That’s why you heard so many wistful Orioles hitters in the clubhouse after the game, talking about the offense pushing across eight runs in a losing effort — so much of that came when this game felt beyond reach.
“We’re out there scoring runs,” Hicks said. “We’re trying to do everything possible to try to win these games. It’s just they outscored us today.”
Added Austin Hays: “We just came up a little bit short today.”
The postgame talk immediately shifted to their opportunity to extend the series in Texas. Hyde said “pretty much everybody” was going to be available in Tuesday’s do-or-die game at Globe Life Park.
That’s going to leave a bunch of options for how he deploys his pitchers — how early he pulls whoever starts, where each reliever is deployed and so much more.
Just as he has every night for the last five years, Hyde and his staff will break down every possibility imaginable for how the game will pan out on the mound. The difference is this time, if it doesn’t work, there’s no tomorrow.