The Orioles finished the first half of the season yesterday (85 games to be exact) with a record of 45-40. They’re in second place in the AL East, and if the season ended today they’d be in a one-game wild card playoff against (…wait for it…) the Anaheim Angels. However they dropped 13 of the final 19 games going into the all-star break, which is where we find ourselves now. Needless to say, the Orioles might well be the happiest team in baseball now that the all-star break is upon us. There’s no question that the team is suffering from a bit of mental and physical fatigue, and one has to hope that these next four days will allow most of them (with the exception of Jones, Wieters, and Johnson) to recharge their batteries a bit.
With yesterday’s 6-0 loss in Anaheim, the Orioles also enter the all-star break having not scored in 21 consecutive innings. Again, the break can’t come at a better time for this team. Anaheim starter Brad Mills made his first start of 2012, and he dominated the Orioles all day. Go figure, Mills has had two other wins at the big league level with the Toronto Blue Jays…both wins came against the Orioles. Sometimes you almost have to laugh at some of the ironies in life; the fastball is without question the best pitch in baseball. Mills’ fastball was so slow that it almost appeared he was throwing change ups all day. Yet the Orioles were out in front of Mills’ pitches all day long. This is not to take anything away from Mills, who pitched a heck of a game. However the Orioles also should have sat on balls a lot longer than they did.
Wei-Yin Chen was a little off in this game as well. Needless to say, it seemed like everyone had already mentally checked out in anticipation of the all-star break. Chen got behind hitters early, and when he needed to make a pitch he wasn’t able to do so. Alex Aybar homered in the second inning, and that’s all that really needs to be said. When you can’t put any runs on the board, all the other team needs is one. Ironically however, all but one of Anaheim’s runs came off of homers. I say ironically because many people seemed to have a problem with the fact that the Orioles score so many of their runs off of homers. Ultimately a win is a win, no matter how you get it. I don’t see many Anaheim fans complaining about scoring their runs like that.
While all Anaheim needed was one run, the play that set up the game breaking open came on a great hustle by Adam Jones. Following a Mike Trout home run, Tori Hunter hit a looper to center field. Jones dove to make the play, and made a spectacular effort…only the ball popped out of his glove at the last minute. Granted Albert Pujols followed that up with a home run, so had Jones just let it drop in front it wouldn’t have made any difference. But that illustrates how sometimes things just aren’t going in your favor.
The good news is that the Orioles won’t have to work too hard to put this one behind them because most of them will be off doing their own thing for a few days. They’ll return to the grind on Friday at Camden Yards when they’ll open a quick three-game home stand with a series against the Detroit Tigers. That will be our first indication of whether or not the Orioles can reclaim some of their moxie from earlier in the year. However the fact is that there are a lot worse places to be at the all-star break than five games above .500. In fact the 2012 Orioles find themselves in a rare position, as more often than not over the last 14 years the season was over in effect by now. Not to mention that normally the O’s were sending one token representative to the mid-summer classic as opposed to multiple players who were very deserving. How quickly things can change.
Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala