If there’s been a characteristic of this Baltimore Orioles team that we’ve seen for most of the season (especially of late), it’s been that they have a short memory and the uncanny ability to bounce back. We saw it on Thursday for sure when the O’s came home after dropping the series finale in Toronto, as well as last Sunday against these same New York Yankees when they rebounded from the previous day’s loss. They’ll need some of that same attitude this evening following last night’s 8-5 loss to NY, which put the Orioles a game back in the AL East standings.
Wei-Yin Chen was solid for the first three innings, and after the game he seemed to reject the notion that he was tiring down the stretch of the long major league season. Chen’s line: 4.2 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 1 BB, 4 K. In fairness to Chen, the loss was as much about the Orioles going 1-for-3 with runners in scoring position as it was his pitches getting hit. The issue isn’t so much the one hit with RISP in my mind, however more so the fact that the O’s only had three opportunities with RISP in the game. However that’s part of baseball; you also have to tip your cap to the opponent at times, in this case New York starter Phil Hughes. At one point he retired eight straight Orioles, and he seemed to settle in as his outing went on.
Chen allegedly hit Nick Swisher with a pitch in the top of the fourth inning. The replays were inconclusive as to whether or not the pitch actually hit Swisher, however seeing that he was already at first base (complete with a smug look on his face) by the time anyone realized what happened…c’est la vie. That seemed to spook Chen a bit, and Robinson Cano walked on four pitches. After an ARod strikeout Russell Martin put NY ahead with a three-run homer. Former Oriole Steve Pearce followed up with a two-run blast of his own, a ball that Nate McClouth felt he could have caught if not for some spectator interference on the part of a visiting New York fan. Replays showed that the fan was right there in the mix, but odds are he didn’t necessarily impede McClouth from getting to the ball. However I think most Oriole fans would have preferred Showalter to go out and ask for a review, especially given McClouth’s reaction. Ironically, McClouth had another similar moment with the exact same fan in the ninth when Swisher again sent a deep shot to left field. This time however McClouth robbed the fan of the ball, leaving a fairly perplexed look on his face! (Question: can fans go out and demand a replay like managers can to see if “player interference” took place?)
However lets keep in mind that the Orioles are rarely out of games anymore. Just ask Adam Jones, who sent a three-run homer into the visitors’ bullpen in the sixth inning. Robert Andino sent a solo shot to left field in the seventh, and Manny Machado added one for good measure in the last of the ninth (after New York picked up an insurance run). That bodes well for the Orioles going into tonight’s game; if there’s one thing that Orioles fans have learned in the last year-and-a-half or so, it’s the fact that you always play every game until the end. After Chen departed the game in the fifth inning Steve Johnson came in from the bullpen and pitched three very solid innings in relief, giving up one hit and striking out three. As the Orioles progress into this stretch run through September Johnson appears to be getting the unofficial title of long man, and he’s been pretty smooth thus far.
New York will send CC Sabathia to the mound this evening against the O’s, who of course have been dominated by Sabathia over the years. However this season he hasn’t quite been himself, and he’s struggled a bit since coming off the DL. The key for the Orioles with Sabathia will be his slider, which of course is a pitch at which the Orioles love to swing. If they can lay off of that and work the count, they’ll put guys on base. Eventually Sabathia will have to stop throwing that slider, and give the Birds the fastballs that they need to score runs in bunches. The Orioles will counter with Joe Saunders, who of course flirted with a perfect game into the sixth inning this past week in Toronto. While CC Sabathia has dominated the Orioles over time, fans should remember that in order to be the best you have to beat the best.