An abnormal 2020 season that began with serious doubts about its staying power naturally is ending for the Orioles in Buffalo. Because so little has felt right. So little has made actual sense.
Manager Brandon Hyde joked again today about doing his Zoom conference call from “a tent.” The ballpark’s extreme makeover couldn’t hide all the blemishes.
Hyde also stressed again the importance of finishing strong. But here’s where abnormal spins to back to uncomfortably normal.
Randal Grichuk reminded the Orioles tonight that he still owns them and the Blue Jays won for the seventh time in eight meetings.
Jorge López couldn’t string together a third quality start in a row, charged with eight runs over two-plus innings, and the Orioles were slow to regain their offensive touch in a 10-5 defeat.
Taijuan Walker retired all nine batters he faced and the Orioles fell to 24-34 despite hitting three home runs. The Blue Jays are 31-27 and headed to the playoffs as a wild card.
Grichuk led off the second inning with his 11th home run of the season and sixth against the Orioles. The launching of a 94.4 mph fastball gave him 18 career home runs and 41 RBIs in 38 games versus the Orioles, whose window for competitiveness lasted only one frame.
López was down 6-0 heading to the third, the Jays scored again on three straight singles to open the inning and Thomas Eshelman let an inherited runner cross the plate with two outs on an RBI single by former Orioles infielder Jonathan Villar.
Austin Hays threw out Travis Shaw at home on Joe Panik’s single for the first out. A fourth consecutive hit gave Toronto 10, a few of the seeing-eye variety, but all of them counting just the same. And Villar made it 11.
Tagged with eight runs and nine hits - only one for extra bases - in two-plus innings, Lopez concludes the season with a 6.69 ERA.
DJ Stewart walked with two outs in the fourth inning against reliever Nate Pearson and Ryan Mountcastle followed with a single. The Jays lost their combined perfect game and no-hitter. But the shutout remained intact until Ramón Urías and Cedric Mullins hit back-to-back home runs off Shun Yamaguchi in the fifth.
Urías had his first major league homer in 21 plate appearances. The Orioles had reduced the lead to 10-2, and it became 10-4 in the sixth with José Iglesias’ second homer in two nights and Hanser Alberto’s RBI double.
Mullins had an RBI grounder in the ninth.
Eshelman surrendered a two-run homer to Shaw in the fourth after Grichuk singled.
The game got away from the Orioles in the second, and Grichuk’s homer was just the first strike. Danny Jansen singled with the bases loaded for a 2-0 lead. Villar had a sacrifice fly, Bo Bichette an RBI single, Teoscar Hernández a two-run single.
López was done after Jonathan Davis’ single that scored Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Mountcastle had two singles tonight for his 13th multi-hit game of the season, and he didn’t arrive until Aug. 21.
He’s going to finish strong, as will a few of his teammates. Hyde was hoping for a more collective effort.
“I’d just like to see us play well the last three games,” he said this afternoon. “Really happy with how we played last night. Loved how we pitched, loved how the offense broke out a little bit and had a bunch of guys with some great at-bats. Hit the ball out of the ballpark, got some big hits with runners in scoring position, just did some really good things offensively.
“I’d love to see us play that way the last three games against a good Blue Jays club. I’d love to see us finish strong.”
It starts with starting pitching. López wasn’t up to the challenge tonight and the flurry in the middle innings couldn’t erase the damage.
Hyde on Urías: “He’s taking really good at-bats. I like the way he stays on the ball, the way he hits the ball the other way. Drove that ball into right-center tonight. He’s just competing at the plate. I think if you make a mistake out over the plate, he takes a really good swing on it. He’s hit the ball hard. ... Showing he can hit a fastball and showing that he can really cover the plate, drive the ball the other way.”
Hyde on López: “Tonight just wasn’t his night. Seemed like there were a lot of middle misses. And these guys have been swinging the bat well and they hit him hard. No two ways around it. I thought they beat us with a lot of hits against the shift that hurt us. But I just thought he had a tough time staying out of the middle part of the plate and being able to expand when he did have an opportunity to. Just a lot of middle misses that they jumped all over.”
Hyde on López’s time with Orioles: “I thought he’s thrown the ball well. I do. I like the adjustments that he’s made since he’s gotten here. Tonight wasn’t his night, but I feel like he’s made some really good starts for us and we like his stuff. I like the mid-90s sinker/curveball mix.”
López on start: “I felt like it was a snowball. I couldn’t get out of it that inning. Just tried to make pitch by pitch, execute it. I feel like I threw a couple pitches good and just found holes. All in all, I’m really happy with everything I’ve been doing. It’s a lesson, this game. It just pushes me to keep working hard on the little things. ... I finished healthy, which I’m happy with.”
López on lessons learned: “I came here as a student and they are my teachers. I didn’t know how good I could be with the little things they can show me to get better every day. It was how I could be consistent with my mechanics. Just little things helped me a lot to get confidence and keep my strong mentality game by game. Just little things I have to keep improving, mixing pitches, how I can get through the hitters. I feel like I did a really good job on that, but I have to be more consistent with my pitches, execute way better than I did today.”
Urías (via interpreter Ramón Alarcón) on whether he’s showing Orioles something last few days: “Yes. I’m aware of that, especially during spring training, I really was not able to show them anything. Unfortunately, I was hurt at that time. So what I’m trying to do is take advantage of this opportunity right now and show them I can be here.”
Urías on what he worked on at Bowie site: “When I was at Bowie, I was working really hard with all my coaches to hit the ball the other way. I think that’s carried over to the big league season and things have worked out pretty well in terms of my approach, going to the other side.”