We saw something happen in the last of the 9th inning of yesterday’s Oriole game that won’t appear on a stat sheet or line score, yet it might have been the difference between winning and losing. It also illustrates why you need a good catcher, as well as a good backup catcher. The Orioles had a 4-0 lead going into the 9th, only to have Cleveland put up three and put runners at first and second (with two outs). Jim Johnson had a 1-2 count on Astrubal Cabrera, and he appeared to throw a slider that he held onto just a split second too long. It broke into the dirt, and very easily could have bounced away from home plate…if it hadn’t been smothered by catcher Taylor Teagarden. If that ball gets away the winning run goes into scoring position. Cabrera ended up striking out to end the game, however if that play ends differently the game might well have also.
This was a game that didn’t need to be close. Luis Ayala relieved Zach Britton in the 7th, and Buck Showalter marched him back out there for the 9th. I felt that was a bit much, however I think that Showalter was trying to save Jim Johnson as well as get Luis Ayala a three inning save. Nevertheless Ayala struggled, giving up two runs on a two-run homer by Carlos Santana. (Given that it’s Cleveland, you might wonder if they have a Bruce Springsteen on their team also!) Showalter then went to Johnson, who gave up another run before closing the game out by striking out Astrubal Cabrera.
Speaking of Zach Britton, he turned in the fifth straight quality start for the Birds, in what’s now a five-game winning streak. Britton’s line: 6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K. Not that the Orioles should be looking at the scoreboard, but don’t look now because the O’s picked up four games on the New York Yankees (who were swept by Oakland) in the past four days. However back to Britton; mixing his sinker with a slider low and in seemed to keep Cleveland hitters off track for most of the day. I get the impression that Buck Showalter and Rick Adair would like him to go deeper than six innings into a game, however this was only his second start of the season at the big league level also.
J.J. Hardy hit a two-run homer in the 1st inning following Nick Markakis’ infield single, which gave the Birds a 2-0 lead. Hardy then turned around in the 7th and plated Ryan Flaherty with an RBI-single, only to have Wilson Betemit homer in the 8th to close out the Orioles’ scoring. As I said, this game shouldn’t have been as close as it was, and that’s to the credit of the Cleveland Indians. The Orioles could probably see a lot of themselves in Cleveland’s rally in the 9th inning in terms of never giving up and playing to the last out.
This is what’s called a four-game “wrap-around” series in that the finale is on Monday, so the two teams will meet at Progressive Field again this evening before the O’s head home. The Orioles are already guaranteed a winning road trip and a series win, however heading home with a six-game winning streak and a sweep of Cleveland at their place would be a sweet ride. (And for the record, Cleveland might be a team that’s in contention for the wild card with the Orioles, so winning the season series head-to-head wouldn’t be a bad thing.) Tommy Hunter will head to the mound tonight; Hunter of course started this string of quality starts for the Orioles last week in Minnesota. He’ll be taxed with replicating that effort; we’ve seen Hunter be very good at times, however he’s had trouble doing it consistently. He’ll be opposed by Cleveland’s Justin Masterson, who struggled his last time out walking seven in 4.1 innings.
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