Down 7-1, one would have thought that the O’s would have folded and come back and fought another day. However these are the Fighting Showalters, and they NEVER give up. This story of course would have been perfect had the O’s been able to come all the way back and beat Tampa, however the point was still driven home in the Birds’ 9-8 loss. Furthermore, I didn’t hear very many people in the announced crowd of 29,500+ at the yard complaining about the loss. Most people said things such as “heck of a game!” That it was.
The one concerning part of course was that starter Jake Arrieta wasn’t able to make it out of the fourth inning. After the game Arrieta said that he felt he was trying too hard to get a quality start, which was starting to wear on him. Arrieta gave up seven runs over ten hits in 3.2 innings pitched yesterday, which put the O’s in a 7-1 hole. The key for all Oriole pitchers is that they can’t consistently pitch from behind in the count; Arrieta went 3-0 on the first batter of the game which set the table for the rest of his outing. The good news is that Arrieta has a short memory, and furthermore in his case it’s not a question of whether or not he has the poise to pitch at this level.
This game almost became a bullpen game. The Orioles pounced on “Big Game James” Shields when he started to tire. Prior to the seventh inning however, Shields shut the Birds down. Does this mean that the Orioles can’t hit the creme de la creme of the league? Not necessarily, however I’ve always said that good pitching will generally shut down good hitting. On the heels of a Nick Markakis RBI-double followed by a Matt Wieters two-run homer, the comeback was on. Another Markakis double in the 7th scored Hardy and Andino, which brought the O’s to within 7-6. However as can sometimes be the case, someone had to play the part of the buzz kill; E. Johnson and Ben Zobrist hit back-to-back home runs in the 8th to pad Tampa’s lead back to three. Yet these are still the Fighting Showalters. Nick Johnson’s 8th inning home run combined with J.J. Hardy scoring on Carlos Pena’s error in the 9th brought the O’s to within 9-8. The Birds had the tying and winning runs in scoring position, however Matt Wieters’ groundout to Sean Rodriguez ended the game in a loss for the O’s.
First off, the Orioles took two-of-three in this battle for first place this weekend at the yard. Manager Buck Showalter indicated after the game that he wasn’t satisfied with that, however even he would admitt that he’d rather be in that boat than in Tampa’s (having lost the series). More importantly, the Orioles battled back when the odds were stacked so highly against them. How many teams even try to mount a rally down 7-1? I know of one: the Fighting Showalters. The net result is still the same in that the O’s lost yesterday’s game, but that should give fans a lot of hope moving into the future. And that’s the vibe I got at the ballpark yesterday.
The Orioles are planning to open up a two-game “mini-series” at the yard with the Yankees tonight. However the weather forecast is calling for a 90% chance of rain for tonight, and an 80% chance tomorrow. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if the O’s don’t see the field again until Wednesday in Kansas City. The pitching matchup tonight is scheduled to be Ivan Nova against Jason Hammels for the O’s. Hammels’ situation is somewhat in doubt because of his injury problems. He said late last week that he was feeling much better and expecting to pitch tonight. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen. My prediction is that he plays…if the game isn’t rained out. The O’s have struggled to beat Nova in the past, although they got to him pretty well last time out at Yankee Stadium.
It will be interesting to see how things work out in this short two-game series. As I said, there’s a chance that both games might be rained out. That would potentially set up the Yankees having to come to Baltimore on an off day for both teams, and/or one or two doubleheaders when they return in September. I don’t see anyway that both games will be played (keep in mind I’m a sports writer though, not a weather man!), however you could potentially get a truncated game in perhaps tomorrow night. A day off (or two) would also allow manager Buck Showalter to reshuffle his rotation a bit giving due regard to injuries and rest. Furthermore if Hammel really is in the clear injury-wise, the O’s might be able to send either Hunter or (more realistically) Eveland to the minors in exchange for a reliever or a position player. While I’d love to see Stu Pomerantz come back to the team, I think there’s a chance that they might bring up another position player at some point this week to give them an extra bat on the bench. With the O’s heading to Washington this coming weekend, they’ll surrender their DH in accordance with NL rules. Every potential pinch hitter is always useful!
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