There really are no such things as moral victories in professional sports…blah, blah, blah. Having said that, I think that the NY Yankees were put on notice last night that the 2012 Baltimore Orioles were not a team that they could simply have their way with whenever they liked. Sure the game is marked as a 5-4 loss in 12 innings; however the O’s battled. Are there things that could have and should have been done differently? Without a doubt. Mark Reynolds’ error in the 6th which led to two unearned runs charged to Wei-Yin Chen (who was making his MLB debut I might add) wasn’t necessary, and neither was Reynolds’ blunder of over-running a foul ball in the 12th. However as a whole, this team lived up to the “fighting Showalters” nickname last night and gave NY all they could handle.
Two different Taiwanese television stations were covering Chen’s debut last night so the folks back in Taiwan could see their countryman in the major league’s. What they saw at first must have troubled them; Derek Jeter was the first batter Chen faced, and he hit a home run. Nick Swisher promptly hit a long double, and Robbie Cano sent a drive to the deepest part of the park before it was caught by Adam Jones. As we found out in spring training, needless to say Chen comes across as a fly ball pitcher. However as rocky as that first inning was, Chen started cruising afterwards and smoothed out very nicely. He retired the next 12 batters, doing his fellow countrymen proud back home.
On the other side, NY starter Freddy Garcia struggled moreso than Chen ever could have. The fans should have known that the O’s were dealing right off the bat when J.J. Hardy tied the score in the last of the first with a solo homer that’s probably still flying somewhere. Garcia’s normally “wicked splittah” wasn’t splitting, and it sure as heck wasn’t wicked or even in the least bit sinister. Garcia departed the game after giving up four runs over 4 and 2/3’s of an inning, however the key stat was that he threw five wild pitches. It got to the point that you’re sitting there wondering if the next wild pitch is going to go far enough for score a runner from third and/or at least move someone up on the base paths. The Birds had their way with Freddy Garcia last night to say the least.
Ultimately Chen finished with a line as follows: 5.2 IP, 7 H, 4 R (2 earned), 1 BB, 6 K. Almost true to form as other former Japanese League pitchers, he started to lose it after five innings. However he did get into the sixth, which is good, and with how this one ended it quickly became obvious that neither starter was going to figure into the decision. (The coolness of the Baltimore night and the swirling wind inside the ballpark also might have contributed to Chen’s fatigue.) After the Orioles stranded several runners in scoring position in the ninth and in extra innings, pinch hitter Raul Ibanez doubled home Robinson Cano against Oriole reliever Pedro Strop in the 12th to give NY the go-ahead (and would-be winning) run.
So the O’s now have to win tonight’s series finale against the Yankees in order to salvage one, to remain above .500 for the season, and to record a winning homestand. Last night’s game was so big in general because the O’s will face C.C. Sabathia tonight, and given that he lost in Tampa last week to start the season one would assume that he’ll be dealing tonight. The O’s will send Jake Arrieta back to the mound in the wake of his Opening Day gem, and of course we know that he’s no slouch in his own right. The Orioles have to take things one game at a time, however I would also point out that they need to try to avoid the types of epic losing streaks we’ve seen from them in the past. Dropping seven or eight games in a row is probably not going to keep the team competitive. Again, the O’s hit the road for ten games starting Friday night in Toronto, which has not been a friendly place the past few seasons.
With Sabathia being a southpaw, it would stand to reason that we’ll see more of Endy Chavez and Nolan Reimold tonight, sending Nick Johnson to the bench. Here’s another question; does Reynolds continue at third base? He led the league in errors last season, and has already committed two in 2012. He’s looked very shaky at third once again, and he’s only batting .143. In fairness, it’s very early in the season and obviously he smoothed out last year at the plate after a slow start. However we heard so much about how he lost weight in the off season and was focused so much on not being a liability in the field; yet that’s what we’re still seeing. With that said, I think that Buck Showalter should at the very least tred softly with regard to this. I don’t think that Wilson Betemit or even rookie Ryan Flaherty is going to take over the title of everyday third baseman, and benching Reynolds might send the wrong message as well. (The fact is that we know what he’s capable of doing at the plate.) But maybe he DH’s Reynolds tonight and sends Betemit into the field. Betemit’s a switch-hitter so when/if NY brings in a right-handed reliever he could turn around and bat from the left side late in the game if need be. Just an idea…
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