By Olivia Witherite (@oliviawitherite)
You know it’s May 2012 if I’m genuinely surprised that the Orioles dropped a series to the Red Sox.
Upon reflection, the three-game series at Camden Yards can teach fans much about the Baltimore team that sits atop the American League East. To help get a better explanation, let’s see how each game earlier in the week versus the Red Sox broke down. The factors of each of these games will effectively show both the strengths and the weaknesses of Baltimore.
May 21, 2012: Game 43
Besides balking a run in, which is a story in and of itself, Tommy Hunter allowed too many runners late in the game. After a strong six-up, six-down at the beginning of the game, Hunter then allowed two runs in the third inning. However, he was working with a 5-2 lead going into the sixth. He then proceeded to let the Red Sox play small ball after a solo home run, and he did not emerge from the inning until the game was tied 5-5.
In fact, in the 8-6 loss, all but two of the Red Sox’s runs came on either a RBI single or sacrifice from Hunter, Kevin Gregg or Troy Patton.
The Orioles were beat at a game that they cannot play – small ball. While the O’s rely much on power hitting, especially home runs, for runs, they lack situational hitting in most cases.
The Red Sox, however, showed them how it was done on Monday.
May 22, 2012: Game 44
Brian Matusz pitched a gem. Who would have thought?
In the left-hander’s 6 1/3 innings, he allowed only one run and struck out nine. He allowed only two hits, one of which was a home run that allotted for the run.
After a solid outing, he allowed the bullpen to shut down Boston. Darren O’Day finished out the sixth, and then Pedro Strop and Jim Johnson combined for two innings of no-hit, one walk ball.
Beyond the solid pitching, one additional factor secured the game for the Orioles: insurance.
In the bottom of the eighth, Wilson Betemit crushed a two-run shot to extend the Orioles lead from 2-1 to 4-1. Watching at the park, the people around me, watching the home run, simply stated, “That’s it.”
And it was, and beyond that, it was the Orioles’ 28th win on the season.
May 23, 2012: Game 44
And then came Wednesday. … A day game for the Orioles, the team was looking for its second series win versus the Red Sox.
Although the Orioles almost came back, they fell 6-5 in the rubber match of the series. Nick Johnson had two home runs on the day, which scored a combined three runs. However, starting pitcher Jake Arrieta struggled. He gave up four earned runs and, even more negatively, made the ‘pen pitch 3 2/3 innings of relief.
Despite the fact that the game was almost a comeback thanks to big bats, Orioles’ starters need to go deeper into games. Doing this is even more important as the bullpen begins to be taxed day after day. Lack of quality starts and extra-inning games go a long way.
So, as Boston leaves town, the Orioles learned what they really need as the Royals come into town: quality starts (and more than just on paper,) offense and insurance runs.
It’s not rocket science. … It’s just how the game’s played.