When I say the Baltimore Orioles need to regroup, I’m not talking about the aftermath of yesterday’s 13-3 loss to New York. Let’s keep in mind that the two teams split the four-game series over the weekend at the yard, as well as their 18-game regular season series this year (each team taking nine games). I say that because yesterday I felt that there were some national and NY media members that were seemingly taking the attitude that New York had just won the Battle of the Bulge with their victory yesterday. Maybe they did for all we know; perhaps they rattle off ten straight wins and the Orioles fade from this point on…
…I can’t speak for NY and the ten straight wins, but I think that this Orioles team have proven it’s resiliency this season. But they do find themselves at a crossroads today. Again, that crossroads has very little to do with the loss yesterday. The O’s lost Nick Markakis for approximately four weeks over the weekend when he was hit by a CC Sabathia pitch. Quite frankly, there was probably going to come a point this month where I was going to write a piece saying that Markakis could potentially be this year’s Most Valuable Oriole given how he had performed in the lead off spot in the second half. Markakis was hitting .335 with a .390 OBP since returning from the DL after the all-star break. The Orioles now need to find a way to replace him.
For me at least it isn’t so much about replacing the statistics or the hits. It’s more about having a trend-setter at the top of the lineup. Nate McLouth went 0-for-2 in the lead off spot yesterday afternoon, however he also walked twice which is virtually as good as two base hits. Defensively, the O’s started Chris Davis in right field yesterday which didn’t provide for any defensive mishaps or anything of the like. However the point is that you’re kidding yourself if you think that losing a player the caliber of Markakis isn’t going to have some sort of affect. The key is minimizing that affect and ensuring that you end up trying to plug pinpoint holes instead of massive leaks.
Today’s off day comes at a good time for the Birds, as they can attempt to get their sea legs under them a bit before going back to the grind of the pennant chase. As Buck Showalter said, people aren’t going to take pitty on you for your issues such as injuries, they’re just going to be glad you have them. Many people point to the time Markakis was out of the lineup previously this year and they say that the O’s went into a bit of a lull at that point. I would also submit that they didn’t have someone such as Nate McLouth or Lew Ford on the roster at that time either. While the sum of those guys isn’t Nick Markakis, they do seem to consistently do what’s needed to help the team win games. Furthermore it seems that Chris Davis and Mark Reynolds are much more zeroed in at the plate than they was back in June, as is the entire team. At some point this month the O’s are hoping to get Jim Thome back from injury which will also help.
So will this stroke of bad luck cost the Orioles a playoff spot? I’m not qualified to tell you that because I can’t predict the future! But what I can tell you is that the road gets tougher. But remember that there are literally still people out there – not to name names, Keith Law – who are saying that this team has no business doing what it’s doing. The Orioles have won all season long regardless of the circumstances because they’ve had the most unlikely of hero’s (Lew Ford, Nate McLouth, and even Mark Reynolds) step up when they’ve needed them the most. Again the road gets tougher without Markakis, but is there really any reason to think this might be any different?