I’m a little concerned that the Orioles were still a little shell shocked coming out of Friday’s game. When you seemingly have a back-and-forth affair like that won only to have the other team bust out a can of whoop-you know what on you, you might need some time to get that out of your system. From the Orioles’ perspective, I suppose Friday was their “Dooooh!” moment so to speak. However the Birds aren’t Homer Simpson and they certainly don’t play in Springfield, Il. That aside, they dropped game two of the series to Oakland last night by a 6-1 final.
Tommy Hunter didn’t look horrible at first, however he left too many pitches up which did him in when all was said and done. This might or might not be a moot issue, but it’s something that I noticed. Just prior to Yoenis Cespedes’ two-run homer (which gave Oakland a 2-0 lead) in the fourth inning, catcher Taylor Teagarden had a conference at the mound with Hunter. During the course of this “business meeting,” Hunter appeared to be facing the third-base side Oakland dugout. He also appeared to be doing a fairly sloppy job of covering his mouth with his glove, something that he seemed to realize mid-way through the mound conference. It seems like such a small thing, and if anything it’s a bit unfair of me to infer that the Oakland dugout read Hunter’s lips because it takes credit away from Cespedes on the homer. All I know is that Hunter threw a slider inside on the next pitch, and in hitting the ball to the moon Cespedes appeared to know what was coming. A slider on a 2-2 pitch (normally a solid fastball count)…?
The O’s seem to break the mold offensively in that they had ten hits and one walk last night, yet they only put up one run. (And that was a Nick Markakis solo homer in the last of the 9th when the game was over for all intents and purposes.) The rule of thumb is that three hits/walks should net you one run. Based on that, the Birds should have had three runs on the board last night. Yet when you’re 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position it’s going to be tough to push runners across. It’s almost flabergasting at how things seem to unfold when the Birds get someone past first base. With nobody out someone will undoubtedly strike out, followed by a flyout (which depending upon the depth might or might not move the runner over if he was on second), and then a groundout…or some variation thereof.
The O’s are getting on base, and normally we would say that’s a good thing. However when you watch today’s game look very closely at how Oakland pitches the Orioles in different situations. With the bases empty or even someone on first base opponents are giving the O’s a steady diet of fastballs. They want the Orioles to put those balls in play; worst-case scenario is that the guy hits a solo homer. Other teams know they can probably overcome that. However once someone gets into scoring position, they start throwing pitches away and in the dirt. The Orioles have happy bats, and the opponents know that, so they try to get them to expand the strike zone. The net result is generally a strikeout or a ground ball in the infield. This is all easy for me to say; I’m either watching on television or from above the playing field. As a career .300 little league hitter myself (I know, that was shameless!), my attitude was always never go down looking. However if you do down swinging every time on pitches that were nowhere near the strike zone, isn’t the net result the same?
The Orioles will have a chance to salvage one in this series this afternoon at Camden Yards. This is a huge game because as I said above it seems that they haven’t shrugged off Friday’s game as of yet. They need to win today before heading to New York to play the Yankees. They’ll be facing Travis Blackley, who pitched seven innings in Toronto last week and gave up one run. Then again, it seems like nobody from Oakland can do any wrong of late. The Orioles will counter with Wei-Yin Chen, who of course was done in by a two-run homer last week against Tampa. Unless Chen’s really off his game, the Orioles can be somewhat certain that he’ll provide a good effort this afternoon. It’s really a matter of whether or not the bats exercise the necessary plate discipline to put runs on the board behind him.
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