No room for er­ror

Mi­ley solid, but mis­takes costly as O’s fall four games out of first place

Baltimore Sun - - SPORTS - By Ed­uardo A. Encina

The play­off pic­ture is a cramped one as Septem­ber looms, and over the fi­nal weeks of the sea­son, ev­ery game gains mean­ing. That was the case Mon­day night as the Ori­oles played their first of six piv­otal games down the stretch against the Amer­i­can League East-lead­ing Toronto Blue Jays.

The head-to-head con­tests are crit­i­cal, and the Ori­oles en­tered the night hav­ing the chance to es­cape a three-game hole. In­stead, a 5-1 loss to the Blue Jays handed the Ori­oles their largest di­vi­sion deficit all sea­son. They are now four games back.

“I know ev­ery­one in this club­house knew Tonight, 7:05 TV: MASN Ra­dio: 105.7 FM IN­SIDE: Cen­ter fielder Jones tak­ing re­cov­ery at a slow pace; Olympian Cen­trowitz hon­ored dur­ing game it wasn’t go­ing to be easy, but we’re not go­ing to give up,” short­stop J.J. Hardy said. “We’re go­ing to go out there ev­ery sin­gle night try­ing to win, and that’s what we’ve got to do.”

What paints a greater por­trait of doom is that the Ori­oles are now clutch­ing to the sec­ond and fi­nal wild-card spot by just one game over the Detroit Tigers, who lead a pack of five teams within 31⁄ games of the sec­ond wild-card spot.

The Ori­oles (71-60) have lit­tle mar­gin for er­ror, even with 30 games re­main­ing in the reg­u­lar sea­son.

Trade dead­line ac­qui­si­tion Wade Mi­ley’s out­ing Mon­day was his best yet as an Ori­ole, good enough for his sec­ond qual­ity start in six out­ings with his new club.

Mi­ley kept a pa­tient Blue Jays lineup in check, send­ing down the Toronto bats in or­der in five of his seven in­nings. Re­ly­ing on slid­ers and sinkers down in the zone, Mi­ley tied a sea­son high with nine strike­outs, in­clud­ing six look­ing, as he ben­e­fited from

home plate um­pire Alan Porter’s gen­er­ously wide strike zone.

“Took ad­van­tage of some lib­er­al­ness with the strike zone and made them honor the ball in,” Ori­oles man­ager Buck Showal­ter said. “He had re­ally three pitches they had to think about that he could throw for a strike. He had good tempo. When he gets things go­ing it re­ally makes them op­er­ate at his speed.”

Mi­ley did his part against the di­vi­sion lead­ers, but the Ori­oles of­fense couldn’t hold up its end.

“Yeah, it’s very dis­ap­point­ing,” said Hardy, whose third-in­ning solo homer was the Ori­oles’ only run. “We want to go out there and win for all of our pitch­ers. I mean, he was pitch­ing good, pitch­ing re­ally fast and [to] get through seven in­nings, giv­ing up three runs, gave us a chance to win. We just didn’t score.”

Mi­ley es­sen­tially made just two mis­takes — a pair of solo home run balls.

He hung an 89-mph fast­ball to third base­man Josh Don­ald­son. The reign­ing Amer­i­can League MVP sent the pitch into the right-cen­ter field stands with one out in the fourth in­ning.

Mi­ley then failed to put away Jose Bautista — who struck out look­ing in his first two ap­pear­ances — when Bautista turned on a let­ter-high 2-2 fast­ball and sent it into the left-field seats of Cam­den Yards.

Other­wise, Mi­ley al­lowed just five base run­ners over seven in­nings. Af­ter Don­ald­son’s home run, he walked slug­ger Ed­win En­car­na­cion, who scored on backto-back sin­gles by Rus­sell Martin and Troy Tu­low­itzki.

Mi­ley, who came to Bal­ti­more with the rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing an in­nings eater, en­tered the night with an 8.18 ERA in his pre­vi­ous five starts with the Ori­oles, and he had reached six full in­nings just once. So his per­for­mance Mon­day was not only his best in his brief time with the Ori­oles, but it marked his best op­por­tu­nity to rise to the oc­ca­sion.

Showal­ter sent Mi­ley out for the sev­enth in­ning de­spite al­ready be­ing at 107 pitches, but Mi­ley re­warded his man­ager’s faith with a per­fect in­ning on just five pitches.

Still, the Ori­oles are now 2-4 in games Mi­ley has started — not a fa­vor­able record from a top trade dead­line up­grade.

Mi­ley can’t be blamed for Mon­day’s out­come. He did his part. The Ori­oles man­aged just four hits — in­clud­ing their only run on Hardy’s homer — against speed­chang­ing artist Marco Estrada.

“I don’t think it’s just tonight,” Hardy said of Estrada. “We’ve had trou­ble with him for a while. He lo­cates his pitches, kind of right on the top. His fast­ball is sneaky. He can el­e­vate it. He can pitch down with it, and his changeup is a re­ally tough pitch.”

Mix­ing his fast­ball and changeup, and us­ing a cut­ter to in­duce weak con­tact, Estrada al­lowed just two hits — a pair of sin­gles — af­ter Hardy’s lead­off homer in the third.

He ex­ited one bat­ter into the eighth in­ning, and the Ori­oles couldn’t do any dam­age against two Blue Jays re­liev­ers, ei­ther.

“He’s been­doin­git for twoyears, re­ally,” Showal­ter said of Estrada. “He’s one of those guys you know what he’s go­ing to do and he’s still able to do it. He does it to ev­ery­body. That’s why he’s on the All-Star team. It wasn’t just us. This guy is a good pitcher, pe­riod.”

But the sober­ing mo­ment for Ori­oles fans came in the ninth, when the Blue Jays plated two more runs off new bullpen ad­di­tion Tommy Hunter in the top of the in­ning. Blue-clad fans be­hind the Toronto dugout made their pres­ence known among the an­nounced crowd of 15,532, cheer­ing and wav­ing Cana­dian flags proudly as fans in half-filled sec­tions of orange qui­etly shuf­fled to the ex­its.

Af­ter the game, Mi­ley tried to look only for­ward.

“We just got to play ball,” Mi­ley said. “We’ve got plenty of games against Toronto. It’s in our own hands.”

GREG FI­UME/GETTY IMAGES

Starter Wade Mi­ley had a qual­ity start and a sea­son-high nine strike­outs, but the Ori­oles fell to the Blue Jays, 5-1, at Cam­den Yards on Mon­day night. The Ori­oles had just four hits and scored their only run on J.J. Hardy’s solo home run in the third in­ning.

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