BALTIMORE — Games are rarely won in the second inning, but they can sometimes be lost.
The Orioles managed just two hits against Boston on Wednesday, falling 4-0 and failing to earn their first series win since late June when they took two of three from the Cincinnati Reds. However, Baltimore failed to capitalize on the wildness of Red Sox starter Andrew Miller in the second inning in their best chance to score all afternoon.
With the game scoreless in the bottom of the second, Miller walked the bases loaded with one out and backup catcher Craig Tatum coming to the plate. Instead of showing the same patience shown by the prior three batters against a southpaw who had walked nine batters over his last two starts (7 1/3 innings), Tatum swung at the first pitch and eventually grounded into a 4-6-3 double play on a 2-2 pitch that was several inches off the plate.
“He was all over the place and then I came up there and he threw me some good pitches,” Tatum said. “I don’t know. It would have been nice to hit a fly ball or [the grounder] just be a couple feet either way and maybe it’s a different game.”
It was just the latest example of neglecting the little things such as taking a pitch or being more selective against a pitcher struggling with his control. However, Tatum was just one of nine hitters for a lineup that mustered only one runner in scoring position over the final seven innings.
The Orioles missed their chance to give an early lead to starter Jake Arrieta, and it was all downhill after that despite a strong seven-inning performance by the right-hander. If the Orioles had even managed to squeeze one run across the board, perhaps it’s a different story the rest of the way.
Only moments after the Orioles’ long — and fruitless — second inning came to an end, Boston center fielder Jacob Ellsbury blasted a 1-2 fastball into the right-field bleachers to give the Red Sox a 1-0 lead in the third. It was all Boston would really need as Miller — with six walks in 5 2/3 innings — combined with former Oriole Matt Alberts, Daniel Bard, and Jonathan Papelbon for the two-hit shutout.
“We should have had runs off their starter,” said a frustrated Adam Jones, who wasn’t impressed with Miller’s stuff. “We put ourselves in the situation [to score runs]. That’s all you can ask for.”
Arrieta scattered nine hits and allowed two solo home runs to Ellsbury in what amounted to one of the 25-year-old’s better performances of the season. It was the first start all season in which he didn’t walk a batter. However, it wasn’t enough to overcome an anemic offensive performance.
“Jake just made a couple location mistakes, and because of the number of runs we weren’t scoring today, it got magnified,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Usually on a given night, Jake’s outing is good enough for a [win].”
It was the third time in five games in which an Orioles starter completed seven innings after getting just one start of that length over the previous 28 games. It was a series in which the Red Sox sent an underwhelming trio of Tim Wakefield, Kyle Weiland, and Miller to the mound instead of the likes of Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, or Clay Buchholz.
Even against the powerful Red Sox and considering how much the Orioles have struggled over the last six weeks, losing two out of three feels like a lost opportunity.
A different result to the second inning might have changed that. Instead, the Orioles bailed out a pitcher, seemingly on the ropes, without any damage done.
“I would have liked to have seen us get a little lead there,” Showalter said, “but that’s something to think about.”
And it’s just the latest disappointment.
Hear from Buck Showalter, Jake Arrieta, and Adam Jones following the loss in the BuyAToyota.com Audio Vault right here.