Courtesy of USA Today

Natitude bested by Orioles Magic

With one out and a runner on first in the top of the 9th inning of yesterday’s game, Washington manager Davey Johnson made one final mistake in a game that he had potentially already mismanaged. Danny Espinosa was at the plate, and Johnson called for a hit-and-run. While Espinosa does strike out a lot, perhaps that wasn’t the absolute worst idea in the world. In a one run game perhaps you can either get the runner to third if Espinosa puts the ball in play, but at the very least stay out of the double-play. Given that most teams (including the Orioles) generally don’t play their starting catchers on day games after night games, it probably would have been a good idea. The problem of course was that on this fatal Sunday Buck Showalter did play Matt Wieters. However Johnson’s goal of staying out of a double-play (of the 6/5-4-3 variety) was achieved; what he didn’t anticipate was Espinosa striking out swinging, and Matt Wieters completing a strike-’em-out-throw-’em out double-play to end the game. Here's to 2011 breakouts!

This was another game in which the Orioles struggled at the plate. Washington starter Ross Detweiler gave up only four hits in the game. The Orioles as a team are struggling at the plate, yet I still believe that this is an issue behind the seams more so than anything else. Players and teams go through these kinds of stretches in seasons, and you just have to hope that they don’t last too long. The good news is that Jake Arrieta matched Detweiler point-for-point. Arrieta’s line: 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 5 K. Arrieta seemed to have problems getting behind hitters in the first three innings, but he made some in-game adjustments and got out of that funk. The lone Washington run came in the third inning when third baseman Ryan Zimmerman singled home Jhonatan Solano. Arrieta was lights out after that point.

In close games like this a lot of things need to happen for someone to win. Many people say that coaches and managers in sports actually lose more games than they win. That might well be true, but I don’t see things that way. However if I had been writing for Washington I’d certainly second-guess Davey Johnson’s decision to bring in Sean Burnett for the 8th inning. He seems to be Washington’s 8th inning set-up guy, which is why Johnson ran him out there. However the fact is that Burnett is a lefty, and the Orioles were hitting Adam Jones, Matt Wieters (switch-hitter), and Mark Reynolds in the inning (righties). Instead of playing the match up, Johnson opted to go with Burnett since it was the 8th inning. Adam Jones singled to right field, which brought Wieters to the plate with one on and nobody out…

…let’s also keep in mind that Wieters shouldn’t have played today. I was as surprised as anyone when the lineup was released to see his name in there. Giving the starting catcher a day off in a day game after a night game is almost a time honored tradition. Wieters wasn’t even the DH in the game; he was behind the dish. Was this a bit of gamesmanship on the part of Buck Showalter against a regional foe? Perhaps, but more realistically I think it was probably just a move to keep a larger bat in the lineup of a team that’s struggling at the plate. Nevertheless Wieters sent an 0-1 pitch into the Orioles’ bullpen, giving the O’s a 2-1 lead.

As soon as I heard the crack of Wieters’ bat, I said one word…“bye!” There was no question that ball was gone, as were Washington’s chances at Beltway series glory. With the Birds in the lead, Jim Johnson was just too good to allow the tying or go-ahead runs to cross in the 9th. Ironically, last year brought us a rubber match between these two teams on a Sunday afternoon at Camden Yards as well. In that game (a 1-1 tie) it was an 8th inning home run by Vladimir Guerrero that lifted the Orioles up. However it took a strike-’em-out-throw-’em-out double-play to end the game and win it for the Orioles. Some thing don’t change.

I don’t think that most Oriole fans begrudge Washington given that both teams are in different leagues and really aren’t relevant with regard to each other, save for six games a year. However their “Ignite your Natitude” campaign is something that anyone who lives in this region has gotten used to seeing. When Matt Wieters completed the strike-’em-out-throw-’em-out double play to end the game, the Orioles Magic song was immediately struck up on the PA system. That song in itself pays tribute to the great Oriole teams of yesteryear with the likes of Brooks, Frank, Boog, Palmer, et al. However it’s entirely possible that this Oriole team is starting to go down that same path in terms of bringing the team back to what it used to mean to the people of the city. Therefore the presence of that song was very fitting at that moment, as it symbolizes how the Orioles are bringing themselves “back to the future.”

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