Grayson Rodriguez issued the first four of a season-high 11 walks by Orioles pitchers and was pulled in the second inning. A parade of relievers didn’t fare much better, including Jacob Webb surrendering a grand slam to Mitch Garver in the third.
Inconsistent pitching and a lack of timely hitting added up to a 2-0 series deficit for the AL East champions, who weren’t swept in a series during the regular season. Falling behind early, Baltimore went 3 for 13 with runners in scoring position and left nine runners on base.
“We’re doing everything possible to try to win these games,” right fielder Aaron Hicks said. “We just got to keep pushing forward because we can’t lose again.”
Game 3 of the best-of-five series is at Texas on Tuesday.
“We have to go to Texas and play well,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “We haven’t played our best two games here. And we’ve played well on the road all year, so hopefully we can play well on the road.”
There has been no word on a Game 3 starter for Baltimore. The choice most likely comes down to 15-game winner — and former Rangers pitcher — Kyle Gibson and 27-year-old Dean Kremer.
The need to stave off elimination could shift the balance toward the 35-year-old Gibson, who is more experienced. But neither he nor Kremer has started a postseason game in the majors.
Neither had Rodriguez, a rookie right-hander who opened Game 2 with a 100-mph fastball. By the time he had thrown his 59th and final pitch, the Rangers had already put five runs on the board on six hits.
“Really just kind of struggled to get into a groove,” Rodriguez said. “I just really struggled with command, I think. Spraying a lot of fastballs out of the zone, falling behind in counts — I think that was the reason for the struggle.”
Bryan Baker walked three of the four batters he faced in the third, setting the stage for Garver to blow the game wide open by crushing a 419-foot drive to left for the second postseason grand slam in Rangers history.
“It’s a good offense, and it’s been a really good offense all year, but we also walked 11,” Hyde said. “You’re not doing yourself any favors by putting that much traffic out there.”
After leading the AL with 48 comeback victories, the Orioles didn’t have quite enough pop to keep up with the Rangers. The top four hitters in their order combined to go 4 for 17 with two RBIs: a sacrifice fly by Ryan Mountcastle in the fourth inning, and a solo homer by Gunnar Henderson in the fifth.
Adley Rutschman’s double in the eighth seemed to set the stage for a two-out rally, but Mountcastle grounded out to send some of the dedicated 46,475 fans in attendance to the exits. Aaron Hicks’ three-run homer in the ninth sent a charge through the ballpark before Ryan O’Hearn flew out and Cedric Mullins struck out to end a 3-hour, 45-minute marathon.
“We were very confident we were going to win the first two at home,” left fielder Austin Hays said. It’s just not how the cards played out. Now we’ve got to win three in a row.”
After dropping Game 1 Saturday after a miscommunication led to Henderson being caught stealing in the ninth, the Orioles have now lost seven consecutive postseason games dating to their last victory, on Oct. 5, 2014.
“We’ve found a way all year: a lot of come-from-behind wins, a lot of series where we lost the first couple games of the series and we fought hard and finished strong,” Hays said. “I’m confident our team can do that again. We’ve done it all year.”