Zach Britton wasn’t stellar in last night’s start, his first of 2012. Granted he was far from awful either. However on a night when the Orioles needed Britton to go deep into the game in order to save an already taxed bullpen, he wasn’t able to get out of the fifth. Britton’s line: 4 IP (plus a part of an inning), 6 H, 4 R, 6 BB, 1 K. Again, Britton was far from terrible; he did show a propensity to get out of jams and to get hitters to expand the strike zone. His sinker was sinking very well. However in a sense perhaps he went to the well too many times, because Minnesota hitters stopped swinging at it after awhile, hence the six walks.
Nick Markakis led the game off with a single; Markakis has performed brilliantly in the lead off spot, which should in theory be helping the Orioles. On a failed pick off attempt Markakis went to third, and then scored in a wild pitch. For once, the breaks appeared to be going the Orioles’ way. However Minnesota’s starter (Samuel Deduno) was let off the hook on numerous occasions by the O’s. Deduno was ineffective for the most part…yet the Birds couldn’t muster much against him. Adam Jones’ three-run homer in the fifth inning appeared to open the game up. However Minnesota loaded the bases in the last of the inning, eventually chasing Britton. The outward appearance to me was that Britton let his guard down a bit when he came out in the fifth. Ultimately the game was tied quickly, granting both starters no decisions.
What’s killing the Orioles offensively right now is the bottom of the lineup. Whereas at the top you have guys like Markakis, Jones, Thome, etc. who can get on base and produce (withstanding Hardy who’s struggling at the plate right now), they’re followed further down by the likes of Reynolds, Davis, and Flaherty. Part of this has to do with injuries. However every team has injury problems. It’s really a matter of whether or not your “depth” is able to grab the bull by the horns. The Orioles are currently trying to figure out how they’re dealing with those issues. Quite frankly, it’s something that they’d better get straight quickly because the rest of the world isn’t going to wait on them much longer.
Minnesota put two runs across following a J.J. Hardy error in the seventh to take a 6-4 lead (which was the final score). Steve Tolleson was called out in the top of the eighth inning with two outs on a fairly sloppy play on the part of the umpiring crew. Tolleson appeared to foul the pitch off to stay alive, yet catcher Joe Mauer threw the ball to first base to complete the out. Buck Showalter came out and argued with home plate umpire Brian O’Nora, however it was to no avail. I think that a lot of Oriole fans were probably hoping Showalter would get tossed in that situation to potentially light a fire under the team, and to be honest it wouldn’t be a bad idea. Someone has to do something.
The best the Orioles can do in Minnesota is a split, and that can only happen if they win tonight. The Orioles have called Tommy Hunter back up to the team, and he’ll get the ball tonight against Francisco Liriano. This will be a game of struggling pitchers who have struggled to throw strikes this year. Liriano is a power pitcher, and with the Orioles’ propensity to strike out base runners might be at a premium. Minnesota was struggling coming into this series, however they appear to be having fun out there on the field. I do believe that the Orioles are the better of the two teams, and the records indicate that. In general, I don’t buy too much into the concept that having this light-hearted approach to the game is going to let you play looser and thus will you onto victory. I think that if you’re better you’re just better…however it might be something worth looking into from the Orioles’ perspective.
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