I suppose that “someone up there” must be looking out for the Baltimore Orioles in the sense that after they laid a bit of a clunker in last night’s 4-0 loss to Toronto the New York Yankees allowed four runs in the 7th inning and lost to Minnesota 5-4. By virtue of that, the Orioles remain only 1.5 games back of New York for the division lead. On a side note, Oakland was able to beat Texas which in theory put them even with the Orioles in the wild card standings, however the Orioles still remain a notch above them given that they’ve played an extra game and have a higher win percentage. The Orioles’ magic number to secure a playoff spot remains at six.
Now with a mini two-game losing streak, the question is whether or not the Orioles are tired. Let’s keep in mind that this is a team that was out on the west coast last week and played an 18-inning game followed by an 11-inning game, after which they flew back to the east coast (Boston). They then proceeded to play a 12-inning game (day game after a night game at that), and then after Sunday’s series finale came home and played a twin bill on Monday. Knowing Buck Showalter and this group of players, they won’t be offering that as a potential excuse for their play. However it’s a question that I’m asking rhetorically.
Toronto put Joe Saunders and the O’s in an early hole when Brett Lawrie scored on Yan Gomes’ RBI-single in the first inning. The O’s were never really able to get anything going offensively last night, although in the last of the ninth with two outs they had the bases loaded. Ryan Flaherty popped out to end the game and the threat. The Birds went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position last night, which made a huge difference in the game. Toronto starter Aaron Laffey was brilliant through his modest 5.2 innings of work. At one point he had induced 11 consecutive ground ball outs. Everything that the Orioles did last night appeared to have Toronto one step ahead of them. We thought Laffey could potentially give up some long balls, and the Orioles came out swinging. Laffey instead threw a lot of off speed pitches and got the Orioles to roll them over.
Joe Saunders pitched a decent game, but ultimately when the offense behind you doesn’t score there isn’t much you can do. Saunders’ line: 6.1 IP, 11 H, 4 R (3 earned), 0 BB, 2 K. In monitoring my twitter feed I noticed a couple of people wondering why Toronto “rolled over” for New York and Tampa, but were playing the Orioles tough (insinuating that Toronto had some reason to want to prevent the Orioles specifically from going to the playoffs). In fact, they got swept in back-to-back series in New York in Tampa before coming to Baltimore. First off, the law of averages says that eventually the pendulum is going to swing back the other way for any team. However let’s give Toronto just a little bit of credit in that they’re still a big league club, and they have pride also. Of all fan bases, Orioles fans should get that point. With that said, Orioles fans have no reason to expect anything less than the same gritty effort that we’ve seen in Baltimore out of the Toronto Blue Jays this weekend when the New York Yankees head to Rogers Centre.
All of this makes tonight’s game a “must-win” in a sense for the O’s. It would be a nice stop-gap victory to put an end to this minor slide before it really gets going, and perhaps more importantly it would give them a boost as they go into the final off-day of the 2012 regular season. And in saying that, this will be a true day off as opposed to the one they had last week where they were so tired from playing and jet lagged from traveling that most of them probably spent the entire day in bed. Toronto will send Carlos Villanueva out to the mound, coming off of a sub-par outing in Tampa last weekend. The Orioles will counter with Miguel Gonzalez, who’s coming off of a gritty effort in Boston last Friday. Here’s a key for the Orioles: keep Rajai Davis off base. Davis has blazing speed and can cause all kinds of problems for teams when he’s on base dancing around. For the Orioles offensively; get ‘em over and get ‘em in!