Although the Orioles lost a 3-2 affair to the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre on Thursday, they did their best to put up a fight. Baltimore (67-84) managed to load the bases in the ninth inning against Toronto closer B.J. Ryan, with only one out.
In the end, though, the Orioles could not come up with a run, as they lost the series to the Blue Jays (82-71), in addition to collecting their 19th loss in the past 24 games.
"We certainly hung in there," said Orioles manager Dave Trembley. "You have got to like the position we were in during the ninth, we had some real good guys up there at the plate. Give Ryan credit, he made some good pitches and got out of it."
Baltimore entered the ninth inning trailing, 3-2. Following a single and a walk, center fielder Jay Payton reached base on catcher's interference to load the bases against Ryan. The Orioles then squandered their prime opportunity, when pinch-hitter Melvin Mora popped out in foul territory and Brian Roberts grounded out to end the game.
"We had a great chance in the ninth inning to tie the game and couldn't get it done," said Baltimore first baseman Kevin Millar. "It's a matter of getting the right hit at the right time. We haven't done that lately. Early on [in the season], everything was going our way and right now, it's been tough to get that big hit."
Baltimore finished the night hitting 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position. During the series, they managed just a .217 (5-for-23) average in such circumstances.
"What [the Jays have] done versus what we've done, is they've taken advantage of the opportunities that they get," said Trembley of the series.
Coming off the worst outing of his career, in which he allowed six runs and recorded just two outs, Orioles starter Garrett Olson looked much better on Thursday. He did get off to a shaky start, allowing a solo home run to Toronto second baseman Jose Bautista in the first inning, but he managed to settle down. After the first inning, Olson retired 12 of the next 16 hitters he faced.
"After that first inning, I think I started to find my groove again," Olson said. "As the next couple of innings went on, it felt like I was getting my rhythm again and making my defense play behind me. I felt like we were getting into a groove as a team."
The Orioles did manage to get into a mini-groove with their bats in the fifth inning when shortstop Alex Cintron stroked a two-run single to right field that travelled just under the outstretched glove of Bautista, giving Baltimore a 2-1 lead.
However, the lead did not last long as Olson (9-9) ran into trouble in the next inning. The left-hander allowed two runners to reach base via a fielder's choice and a single. He was then removed for reliever Jim Miller, who threw a wild pitch with his very first offering to pinch-hitter Gregg Zaun that allowed the runners to move into scoring position. Zaun then launched the next pitch into right field for a two-run double that gave the Jays a 3-2 lead.
After the game, Trembley said he thought the wild pitch was critical.
"The key was Miller coming in and the first pitch, he throws a wild pitch and puts the go-ahead run in scoring position," said the manager. "And Zaun got the big hit."
In addition to playing hard, another theme for the Orioles during the last stretch of the season has been trying to evaluate the younger talent on its roster. In a sense, the 24-year-old Olson, who is trying to secure a spot in next year's rotation, felt he made strides from his performance on Thursday.
Battling nerves at times this year, Olson said he was recently working with pitching coach Rick Kranitz on maintaining his composure during tough situations.
"We've talked about being able to slow it down and take a deep breath in between pitches," said Olson. "You give yourself a chance when you make your pitches versus letting it snowball, and then letting it just escalate and getting yourself into more trouble.
"I worked on that with him and I felt like I made some big improvements."
David Singh is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.