Orioles lose leads and series in Philadelphia

The Orioles squandered a few chances to boost their division lead
Kyle Bradish struggled through 6.2 innings, allowing 5 runs.
Kyle Bradish struggled through 6.2 innings, allowing 5 runs. / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

All three games that the now first-place Orioles played in Philadelphia this week followed a similar pattern: the Orioles took a lead, and the Phillies rallied. In Game 1, the Orioles were able to withstand Philadelphia's rally, with Colton Cowser lofting a game-winning RBI triple in the ninth inning passed a diving Kyle Schwarber and Cionel Perez holding on for the save.

But as the Orioles learned in Games 2 and 3 of the series, sometimes leads, and ultimately a late July road series, can slip right out of your grasp. In a series that the previously high-flying Orioles perhaps should have swept, they will limp out of Philadelphia losers of 2 out of 3.

Orioles leave Philadelphia with two straight losses to lose series

1. Game 1: Orioles 3, Phillies 2

Colton Cowser
Baltimore Orioles v Philadelphia Phillies / Mitchell Leff/GettyImages

The Orioles came into Game 1 of the series on a high after a dramatic, playoff-intense series win at Tropicana Field in St. Pete. Having finally caught the Rays, the Orioles sought to pad their two-game division lead with the Rays idle on Monday. They got off to a great start. Rookie Jordan Westburg hit his first Major League home run, tucking a fly ball inside the the right filed foul pole to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead for the first of several leads during the series.

Starter Dean Kremer sought to do his part on the mound and make the lead stand up. He held Philadelphia scoreless until the bottom of the fifth, when Kyle Schwarber lifted a shallow sac fly into center to tie the game at 1. But the Orioles immediately responded; Ryan Mountcastle slugged a gargantuan home run to dead center in the top of the sixth, giving the Orioles the lead right back. Kremer pitched seven sparkling innings, allowing just the one run, and the Orioles entered the bottom of the eighth up by one.

As is becoming a concerning trend, the Orioles bullpen outside of Felix Bautista would struggle. Danny Coulombe allowed three hits and earned two outs only because an Edmundo Sosa liner was hit right at third baseman Ramon Urias, who was able to turn a double play. Bryan Baker came in and allowed the Phillies' fourth hit of the eighth, an RBI single to Nick Castellanos. While it looked like the bullpen wouldn't get anyone out, Bryce Harper tried to score from first base and was gunned down at the plate. The game was tied at 2 heading to the ninth.

Undeterred by their second blown lead of the night, the Orioles scored a huge run off of Philadelphia closer Craig Kimbrel, with rookie Colton Cowser lining an RBI triple just inside the line and passed a diving Kyle Schwarber, to give the Orioles the lead. With Felix Bautista resting after pitching 4 games in 5 nights, Cionel Perez came on for the save. Despite allowing the Phillies to put runners on first and second in the bottom of the ninth, Perez induced a fielder's choice ground out from centerfielder Jorge Rojas, and the Orioles prevailed to a season-best 62-38. With Tampa Bay idle, the Orioles AL East lead grew to 2.5 games.

2. Game 2: Phillies 4, Orioles 3

Alec Bohm
Baltimore Orioles v Philadelphia Phillies / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

With the Orioles starting to feel invincible - they had taken 3 out of 4 on the road in Tampa and helped off the Phillies in Game 1 of the series - they built yet another early lead, going up 2-0 on Adam Frazier's RBI double in the top of the third. As Kremer had done the night before, Kyle Gibson was solid. Despite allowing a third inning run, he kept the Orioles in front until the sixth inning, when the always-dangerous Bryce Harper launched a breaking ball over the right field wall, tying the game at 2. Another Orioles lead vanquished. But, as was the case the night before, the Orioles would quickly regain the lead in dramatic fashion, this time by way of a solo blast off the bat of Ryan O'Hearn.

While O'Hearn got the Orioles the lead back, their bullpen did something unexpected: it secured two brilliant innings from a reliever not named Bautista, with newcomer Shintaro Fujinami retiring all six batters he faced, sending the Orioles into the ninth with the lead.

Then something somewhat surprising happened: Yennier Cano, and not all-world closer Felix Bautista, took the mound for the ninth. While pitching Perez in Game 1 after Bautista and Cano had both thrown in 4 of 5 games made sense, using the putatively equally-gassed Cano over Bautista in a one run game was puzzling.

Cano got off to a good start, inducing a bounce out from Trea Turner. Bryce Harper singled, bringing Nick Castellanos to the plate as the winning run. Cano struck out Castellanos, and the Orioles were one out away from yet another series win.

But it was not to be: instead, Cano and the Orioles blew yet another lead, this one leading to a walk-off RBI single by the above-pictured Alec Bohm and a 4-3 Phillies win. We haven't had to say it too many times this year, but this one hurt.

Adding further insult to injury, Gunnar Henderson left the game with an apparent back injury. However, he expects to be back in the lineup when the Orioles host the Yankees on Friday.

3. Game 3: Phillies 6, Orioles 4

Adley Rutschman
Baltimore Orioles v Philadelphia Phillies / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

With two outs and two on in a scoreless game in the third, Adley Rutschman blasted a three-run homer to left field, giving the Orioles yet another lead. But again, it did not take this one long to vanish. Even with Kyle Bradish, arguably the Orioles' ace on the mound, the Orioles simply could not maintain the lead. Philadelphia scored two in the third and two in the fourth to take a 4-3 lead. It remained 4-3 until the seventh when the Orioles, to their credit, punched back yet again. Austin Hays' two-out RBI single to left scored James McCann and the game was knotted up at 4.

Bradish, who had settled down after the rocky third and fourth innings, stayed on for the bottom of the seventh and immediately retired Marsh and Jake Cave. Now Hyde had a choice here: leave his de facto ace in for one more batter - the supposedly light-hitting Edmundo Sosa - or turn to his bullpen, where Cionel Perez was warming up. Hindsight is 20/20, and people may second-guess Hyde for leaving Bradish in, but I would have done the same thing.

Unfortunately, the results weren't so good. After getting ahead of Sosa 0-2, Bradish made a mistake with a high fastball, which Sosa drove the other way for a solo home run. Cionel Perez relieved Bradish at this point, and unfortunately just poured salt in the Orioles' fresh wound of allowing the Phillies to jump back on top (again). Perez failed to retire a single batter, and by the time Mike Bauman induced a flyout from Alec Bohm, the Phillies had scored again and led 6-4.

This time, the Orioles were out of rally juice. They failed to place a runner on base against Craig Kimbrel and Gregory Soto, respectively. While this game was not as heart-wrenching as the Game 2 loss, the Orioles still blew what appeared to be a comfortable 3-0 lead with Bradish on the mound. Instead of continuing their winning ways, the Orioles led several leads, and ultimately the series, slip away.

Turning back to the Game 2 loss: I love Brandon Hyde. I think he should win manager of the year this year, and frankly, he should have won it last year. He is a smart, likable guy and a good manager. ut Wednesday's loss further highlights the poor decision not to use Bautista in Game 2. As writers covering the team, we do not know the ins and outs of why Bautista needed another day and Cano did not. And undoubtedly, Bautista's ability to pitch October innings may be more important than his ability to pitch in July. But the Orioles are going to be in a dogfight for the AL East for the remainder of the season, and each win counts.

As it turns out, Bautista would not have been needed in Wednesday's loss, and the Orioles arguably sacrificed a greater chance at a series win by sitting Bautista, when he was not needed anyway in Game 3. While this does not tarnish my admiration for Hyde as a manager, it was another frustrating subplot to a frustrating series loss.

The Orioles will enjoy a much-needed off-day on Thursday before welcoming the Yankees to Camden Yards for a big three-game set this weekend. And not to be the bearer of more bad news but... a certain slugger and 2022 MVP named Aaron Judge expects to be back this weekend.