I’m reminded of the line former Washington Redskins’ head coach Steve Spurrier used to describe a season in which the Skins finished 5-11…“not too good.” That line also applies to the Orioles committing 15 errors in the field in the first nine games of their current ten-game road swing. In truth, it really hasn’t been that much of a problem until the Birds hit Anaheim. They took two-of-three in Toronto, and three-of-four in Chicago. Now they’re needing a win this afternoon against the L.A. Angels to avoid being swept. One way or another, the O’s are guaranteed at least a .500 road trip (which isn’t too bad). However 6-4 sounds a lot better.
For the second consecutive night the Orioles committed three errors in the field. Twice during the game Jake Arrieta threw over to first base only to throw wide of the bag and allow the base runner to go to second. Speaking for myself, I felt that Arrieta became a bit too preoccupied with the base runners. On top of those two errors, Arrieta walked five guys in the game. After stumbling a bit out of the game in the first by keeping the ball up Arrieta settled down fairly well through four innings.
Prior to the Angels even coming to bat that inning Matt Wieters seemed to break the game wide open with a two-run homer following Adam Jones’ infield single. At that point you felt that the Birds seemed to be cruising given that they had a lead in what was looking to be a pitchers’ duel. However in the bottom of the inning Arrieta seemed to come apart from “behind the seams.” Arrieta committed one of his two errors after a Tori Hunter single, and then proceeded to throw a wild pitch to send Hunter to third. When it was all said and done, Arrieta had been chased from the game after giving up 5 runs in 4.1 innings. Lucikily for him and for the team Matt Lindstrom came in and got two outs with the bases loaded on two comebackers to the mound.
I wouldn’t worry too much about Arrieta. This kind of outing happens to the greatest pitchers of all time here and there; Arrieta’s very good at putting stuff in the rearview mirror. What I would be concerned about is Mark Reynolds at third. As I said the O’s committed three errors (for the second consecutive game); Arrieta had two of them…guess who’s responsible for the third? On two separate occasions Reynolds sailed a throw on a routine grounder wide of the bag at first base. The first time Chris Davis was able to field the ball and still touch the bag for the out. The second time he wasn’t so lucky, and Reynolds was charged with an error. You really can never know what the issue is in a situation like this, however the fact is that Reynolds seems to have regressed defensively from last year. There’s no doubt in my mind that part of it is mental in that he’s afraid he’s going to make a mistake. However as a professional athlete you can’t allow that to creep into your mind.
The O’s did use utility infielder Ryan Flaherty at third for one inning a couple of weeks ago against Minnesota. I for one wouldn’t mind seeing more of Flaherty, and I think that Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette need to see what they have in this kid. Quite honestly I’m a bit disappointed that aside from that appearance and a start last week in Toronto (at first base), Flaherty’s been buried on the bench. Am I saying that I’m hoping to see Flaherty’s name penciled in at third when the lineup comes out today? Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. It would serve two purposes in that it would give Flaherty more game experience, and Reynolds would get a day to clear his mind a bit (plus tomorrow’s off day).
If bad things do in fact happen in three’s, the Orioles have typified that idea the past two games with the three errors in each. Yet they have to hope that the third time is the charm against the Angels in this afternoon’s series finale. Wei-Yin Chen will go to the hill for his third big league start, and he’ll be opposed by Dan Harren of the Angels. Aside from the Reynolds/Flaherty dynamic at third, I’ll also be interested to see if Showalter starts Matt Wieters or Ronnie Paulino behind the plate. Many starting catchers get Sundays off (day game after a night game), however with Chen still being a rookie you have to wonder if they wouldn’t want him to work with his normal battery mate.
The O’s seem to have been lost a bit in the shuffle over the weekend in Anaheim after shooting out of the gate on their current road trip. For what it’s worth, manager Buck Showalter has made a few veiled comments to the effect that he wasn’t really pleased with the schedule-makers in sending the Orioles on a ten-game swing all over the map. To this point they’ve handled it well in that they won the first two series’. While the first two Angel games were disappointing, a win this afternoon would send them home on that same sweet note on which they started. A loss would be sobering, however there’s still been a lot of good on this trip. Win or lose today, the good news is that the bad stuff is fixable.
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