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Well, That Has To Be The Most Painful Way To Lose A Baseball Game

10:42 AM EDT on April 2, 2023

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 01: Ryan McKenna #26 of the Baltimore Orioles drops what would have been the game ending out during the ninth inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on April 01, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Nick Grace/Getty Images)
Nick Grace/Getty Images

I submit that there are two fundamental ways to blow a baseball game, and all variations fall under one of those umbrellas. The first is to take a large, early lead, and then slowly squander it. This is death by a thousand cuts, and it's particularly nasty because you can see it coming long before it arrives and can't anyone around here hold a damn lead. The second is for everything to come down to one play, one thing where if it had gone another way—the way it should have gone if life were fair—you'd have won. The Baltimore Orioles played one game on Saturday and brutally lost in both of these ways.

The O's jumped out to a 7-1 lead on the Red Sox on the back of homers from Ryan Mountcastle, Austin Hays, and Cedric Mullins. Normally you'd feel pretty good about that, though Baltimore had nearly given away an 8-2 lead in their previous game, before holding on for a 10-9 squeaker. But Boston took a big chunk out of their deficit with a pair of two-run dongs in the third, then, after the Orioles tacked on another, closed the gap to 8-7 in the seventh.

(Here it might be cruel or informative or both to note that the Orioles' "liftoff," as Mike Elias put it last summer, might be more likely to reach orbit if they actually spent some money on pitching. Instead they gave one-year deals to Kyle Gibson, who will eat innings but is no real contender's idea of an Opening Day starter, and reliever Mychal Givens, who started the season on IL. It's early, but it's hard to imagine Grayson Rodriguez being significantly worse than what's being trotted out there right now.)

Still, the Orioles held the lead through the ninth. Through the 26th out, in fact! That's when Masataka Yoshida popped up the most routine of fly balls to left. Statcast gave it an expected BA of .010, and I can only assume that one-percent success rate comes from ultra-shifts that see the left-fielder positioned in center. But Ryan McKenna was there, and settled under it for what would have been the final out except for ... well.

Two pitches later, Adam Duvall made McKenna feel like shit.

McKenna is a good defender, and in fact usually comes off the bench as a defensive replacement, though he started this game. He just made an oopsie, and couldn't really explain how. “I ran to it pretty hard, it was up in the sky, and I guess I just didn’t follow all the way through with it,” he said. “Hit the butt of my glove and just fell out."

It happens. Not usually with timing this poor, sure. But it's a long season. Plenty of chances for even worse losses to wipe out the memory of this one.

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