After a wild eight innings of baseball at Camden Yards, the Orioles entered the ninth last night with a 9-8 lead over Oakland. The Orioles had tied the game and then taken the lead in dramatic fashion in the last of the eighth, which left one expecting an anti-climatic top of the ninth. Unfortunately the Orioles were playing a team that like themselves plays to the final out. On the heels of RBI-singles by Norris, Weeks, and Crisp along with a bases-clearing double by Smith, Oakland put six runs across in the ninth. As closer Jim Johnson said after the game, he “didn’t have his best stuff.” I suppose that goes without saying, but in fairness what is Johnson expected to say in the wake of a collapse like that?
Speaking of not having your best stuff, Zach Britton and the Orioles found themselves in a 5-0 hole after the second inning. One thing I found interesting was that Chris Carter and Brandon Hicks homered on the first pitches they saw respectively, and both pitches were middle-in. The scouting reports on Oakland hitters must read that they like pitches middle-in. Consequently, the scouting report on Britton is that his middle-in pitches are vulnerable. There’s also another possibility that crossed my mind later on after someone hit another middle-in pitch down the left field line foul (with home run distance). Was it not possible that Britton was somehow inadvertently tipping his pitches? The same pitch was virtually hit to Mars on three different occasions; that’s no coincidence. Nevertheless Britton settled down and at one point retired seven straight batters, which tells me that him and Rick Adair were able to make the necessary in-game adjustments to keep the Birds in the game.
Chris Davis homered for his second straight game in the second, and J.J. Hardy’s RBI-double in the third scored Nick Markakis from first base. Third base coach Demarlo Hale sent Markakis into a bang-bang play at home plate, but the umpire correctly ruled him safe. Hardy also plated Taylor Teagarden in the fourth, after which Adam Jones gave the Birds the lead with a three-run line drive home run. That lead was short lived however, as Oakland came back with three runs of their own in the sixth to take an 8-6 lead.
As has been said on numerous occasions, this Oriole team doesn’t quit. They at times come across as Mother Goose’s Humpty-Dumpty in that they “take a great fall,” but yet they get back up. While the end result of last night’s game was a loss, the O’s battled back twice in this game, which says something about the character of the team. Behind Hardy and Thome RBI-singles in the eighth, the O’s tied the score at eight in the last of the eighth inning. Chris Davis followed that up with an RBI-single of his own, which gave the O’s a 9-8 lead which of course evaporated with the theatrics in the ninth.
The O’s will need that “character” starting tonight as they attempt to bounce back from this loss. I would remind people that these kinds of games happen; over the course of 162 games you’re going to win a few that you have no business winning. Those count just as much as wins you “earn.” You’ll also lose a few that leave you feeling like you were punched in the gut. Would the 2010 or 2009 Orioles have even battled back after being down 5-0? Probably not. If you put Jim Johnson out there in those same circumstances again, odds are he gets the job done. There are a million cliche’s we can use as such, however the bottom line is that it didn’t happen last night. That makes tonight’s game all the more important. Obviously there are potential playoff implications, however it’s important for the psyche of this team. That’s the kind of loss after which faint-hearted teams might go into an elongated losing streak. The best thing for the Orioles to do would be to expunge that from their memories by laying the woodwork to Oakland tonight.
Speaking of Oakland, the Orioles seem to be catching everyone at the wrong time because the A’s are hot right now. However at some point you have to try to make your own destiny, not go by the fact that “this team’s hot,” or “this team’s cold.” Starting tonight the Birds need to make Oakland sit in their clubhouse and think “gee, we’re catching the Orioles at the wrong time.” To continually worry about who’s hot when you play them would indicate that you have no control over your own destiny, but instead that your peers/opponents hold the cards. The Orioles will face Bartolo Colon, who’s pitched well against the Birds over the years. His last outing provided a shaky performance against New York, however Oakland being the hot team that they are won that one in walk-off fashion. The O’s will send Tommy Hunter to the mound to oppose Colon, needing desperately for the right-hander to turn in his third consecutive quality start. The good news coming out of last night’s game is that there’s no question the bats came to life, and at clutch moments at that. That’s the part of last night that the Orioles need to capture and bring onward like lightning in a bottle.
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