Granted the overall story and the most important part of it is that the Orioles were swept by the NY Mets and now carry a three-game losing streak into a long homestand. However there was one aspect of the game that I found interesting more so than the rest of it. At the very least, Oriole bats came to life just a bit at the end, starting with Wilson Betemit’s two-run homer that broke a 28-inning scoreless streak. The Birds also managed to load the bases in the 9th, Mark Reynolds drew a pinch-hit walk which brought home Matt Wieters to bring the score to 4-3. Brian Roberts grounded out to the second baseman to end the game, but Oriole fans can take some solace in the fact that the team battled and made a game of it at the end.
I was also reminded of the finale of the previous homestand last Thursday night against Pittsburgh. The Orioles won that game 12-6, however what stands out at me is that they scored four runs in the first, one in the second, and five in the fourth. After the fourth inning the Birds put up a token run in two more innings to close out the scoring. The apparent power-outage wasn’t a problem at the time because the Orioles already had a sizable lead. However it did foreshadow some of the struggles the team had on the road trip. In six games on the road (three in Atlanta and three in NY) the O’s managed to score nine runs. (I suppose the one exception might be last Saturday night when they dropped a 5-0 job on the Braves.) So in retrospect, it appears that we saw the beginnings of the offensive struggles on the tail end of the last homestand.
So fast-forwarding back to now, we saw some positive at-bats with guys getting on base in last night’s game. Obviously it was too little too late, however does this mean that the Orioles have started a new trend whereby things will go back to how they should be? That’s tough to say; struggling at the plate is really nothing more than a player or team playing Family Feud with itself. Unfortunately the opposing team often picks up on that very easily, which makes things worse. Opposing pitchers know that guys are scuffling at the plate and that they’ll probably be willing to expand the strike zone. So pitchers can pitch guys outside and upstairs and not have to worry as much about the potential circumstances.
Last night’s game was another case of an Oriole pitcher (Matusz) looking halfway decent, but ultimately giving up some key hits/runs to do himself in. Matusz actually did an impressive Harry Houdini act all night long, often bailing the Oriole defense out of jams. Scott Hairston hit what appeared to be a routine fly ball to center field, however Ryan Flaherty decided against deferring to Adam Jones. The two collided, and Jones dropped the ball. Matusz got out of it unscathed. Andres Torres reached second base on a Wilson Betemit throwing error, and again Matusz bailed the Orioles out. However once the score reached 3-0 in the fifth, Buck Showalter lifted Matusz and opted for the bullpen. This also might have been just as much an offensive move as it was for defense. As part of a double shift Showalter inserted Steve Pearce into left field (batting in Matusz’s spot in the order), and sent Ryan Flaherty to the bench. (Reliever Luis Ayala was inserted into the batting order in Flaherty’s spot.) While Matusz had dug himself a hole, that move might have been as much about getting more pop into the order as it was to insert a reliever.
I said earlier in the week that often times facing a knuckleballer such as Dickey can cramp a team at the plate for days afterwards. I think we saw that affect up until the 8th inning last night. NY also provided superior starting pitching after Dickey in the form of Santana and Dillon Gee. The Birds of course started hitting and putting guys back on base after Gee exited himself last night. The good news for the Orioles is that they had a short flight home to Baltimore last night and will have a day off at home today before opening up a series with the Nationals at the yard this weekend. One has to hope that the affects of the knuckler might further slip away during the off day. Furthermore a day off will help the O’s to relinquish the memory of being swept in NY against the Mets. Interleague play will continue for the Birds as I said this weekend against Washington, but being back at Camden Yards will provide for American League rules once again. And after Sunday’s game, it’ll be “all AL all the time” the rest of the way.
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