The O’s were unable to complete the sweep of the Boston Red Sox last night, as Boston came from 2-0 down to beat the Orioles 6-3. Chris Tillman had a similar start to that of Miguel Gonzalez the night before in that he wasn’t great but he was far from horrible either. His pitch count was driven up early, which probably did him in. He wasn’t helped much by the apparent roving strike zone harbored by home plate umpire Laz Diaz. The idea is that umpires need to be consistent in their strike zone, and Diaz appeared to not have brought his A-List game in that regard. Tillman appeared to be aiming for what he interpreted as the strike zone, only to find that it was actually outside.
On the flip side, Boston starter Clay Buchholtz seemed to get more and more settled in as the game went on after a rough start. At the beginning of the game I felt that Tillman had the better “stuff” of the two pitchers, however he seemed to adjust better to the strike zone. One thing that Diaz got right was not warning the benches in the last of the third when Adam Jones was beaned by a Buchholtz fastball. Buck Showalter came out of the dugout to check on his player at first, and in doing so appeared to turn a deep shade of purple while staring down the Boston bench. The thought was that Boston took exception to Jones colliding with catcher Jared Saltalamacchia the previous night, and then having the nerve to drive in two runs. As soon as the incident occured Jim Palmer said on MASN that (in his view) it was intentional. Showalter and the Oriole fans seemed to feel the same, as did Laz Diaz. Many times in situations like these the umpire will immediately warn both benches. In effect, this handicaps the team that was originally beaned because it prevents them from being able to hit back. (And if that sounds like revenge or vengance, that’s exactly what it is…Blind American Justice, as Arlo Guthrie says in Alice’s Restaurant.) In not warning both sides, Diaz gave the O’s the option of hitting back (after which both benches would have been warned). Nothing more happened in the game…however Showalter won’t forget this, and the two teams meet six more times before the end of the season.
Speaking of the end of the season, the Orioles now begin a stretch run that will decide their season once and for all. They open up a three-game set in Detroit tonight, followed by three in Texas, three with Toronto (home), four with the ChiSox (home), and three in NY. Later in September NY comes back to Baltimore for four games, Tampa for three, and the O’s head to Oakland for three and they close the season with three games in Tampa. (There are some other series’ in between there, however the above-mentioned teams are all competing with the Orioles for the division and/or wild card spots.) That’s going to be “the season” folks. The rest of the year is going to possibly be the most difficult part. However let’s not forget that this is a franchise that’s lost for 14 straight years; nobody said this would be easy. Furthermore it also makes sense that if this team is going to go to the playoffs, they’d have to get through several immensely difficult games to do it.
Let’s also keep in mind that there have been several other stretches of games this year where the so-called “experts” have said would “finally” break the Birds. To this point, they’ve always found some way to push through. I wouldn’t liken it to “flying by the seat of your pants,” however one way or another the Orioles have survived “make or break” stretches each time they’ve faced them thus far this year. Quite honestly, I have no reason to believe that the same won’t happen this time around also if not for any other reason than they’ve found a way all year. The good news is that they took care of business on the just-completed homestand, going 7-3 in that ten game stretch.
The Orioles will send Tommy Hunter to the mound in Detroit tonight, who will face off against Detroit ace (and Cy Young candidate) Justin Verlander. The last time Verlander faced the Orioles he blanked them for eight innings, something that the Birds will try to avoid tonight. The good news for Hunter, who gives up a home run or two, is that Comerica Park is a pitcher’s yard with a big outfield. That might play to his advantage. One thing to keep an eye on is tomorrow’s scheduled starter. Originally it was to be Steve Johnson, however he pitched two innings in relief last night, and the Orioles’ starter is currently TBD. Is it possible that another roster move is coming, or perhaps a waiver trade involving a pitcher? Time will tell…
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