Not that they should expect any, but the Baltimore Orioles are getting absolutely no help these days. They got the pleasure of playing a team in Tampa that like the Orioles plays every game until the end and doesn’t give up, while New York got the luxury of playing Boston. Let’s be frank; Boston gave up some time ago. And whether or not Bobby Valentine should be fired for how he managed the rest of the season is one thing, but I’d fire him specifically for the effort his team put forth last night in losing 10-2. In other words, the Orioles are seemingly having to work for the division, while (if last night’s any indication) NY’s almost having it handed to them.
With the Orioles’ 5-3 loss and NY’s 10-2 win, the O’s dropped a game behind NY in the division. By virtue of Texas losing to Oakland, they’re now also tied with Oakland in the Wild Card standings. Both teams are in the playoffs so that’s not an issue, however home field advantage in the Wild Card game is on the line, and Oakland would win any tie-breaker with the Orioles by virtue of their better head-to-head record. Again, the Orioles are getting no help. Going to Oakland for the Wild Card game would be bad for the Birds first off because it would require a cross-country trip. However the Oakland Coliseum has not been an easy place for the Orioles to play the past couple of seasons. In an “automatic game seven” situation, I’m not sure that’s where the Orioles want to have to play. However more importantly than anything, that scenario wouldn’t guarantee the Orioles a home game (unless they beat Oakland), and that would be tough to bear.
While the Orioles are getting no help, they also didn’t help themselves by losing in Tampa last night. The sad thing is that Wei-Yin Chen pitched a good game despite his pitching line: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R (one earned), 1 BB, 4 K. The one earned run and three unearned tells the story of the game. The earned run came on Ben Zobrist‘s fourth inning solo homer which gave Tampa a 1-0 lead. The Orioles tied the game in the seventh when Matt Wieters followed suit, however in the last of the inning Chen appeared to start to tire. The other three runs were unearned due to Manny Machado‘s error at third which allowed Evan Longoria to reach base. After a Jeff Keppinger single Longoria would score on a sac fly. Tampa would get another RBI-double in the inning to stretch the lead to 4-1.
We went to the ninth after Tampa tacked on another one in the eighth. However let’s not forget that these are the “Fighting Showalters.” They don’t relent in games until the final out, even in a losing effort. With J.J. Hardy on second base Chris Davis‘ shot hit a catwalk in the outfield and was ruled a home run despite protests from Tampa manager Joe Maddon. That in itself should give Orioles’ fans hope if they end up in Oakland on Friday because if there’s one thing we should have learned about this team this season it’s that they don’t give up until the final out.
Everyone involved in the playoff picture has two games left. New York can clinch the division with an Orioles loss tonight along with them beating Boston (which might be a given with the effort that Boston put up last night). Even if the Orioles win their final two games in Tampa, they would need New York to lose at least one game which would spar a one-game playoff at Camden Yards on Thursday for the AL East crown. Speaking for myself, my focus is moreso on the Texas/Oakland series. The Orioles need to make a concentrated effort to win both remaining games in Tampa because otherwise they might be headed to either Oakland or Texas on Friday. They had a tough time with both of those teams this year, especially in those parks. More importantly, I feel that it would be a shame for the O’s not to play in front of their fans in the Wild Card game after the season that they had. However one way or the other, you know that Buck Showalter and the team will accept their fate as what it is when the time comes, and they’ll do everything in their power to win that game regardless of the venue.
The O’s will send Miguel Gonzalez to the mound tonight against Tampa, which is a welcome sight for a team that’s scrapping trying to win the division or at the very least clinch a home game in the playoffs. Gonzalez has proven to have ice water in his veins down the stretch in the second half, and he’ll need that in Tampa tonight. He’ll be opposed by “Big Game James” Shields, who’s actually struggled this year against the Orioles. He’s 1-1 with a 6.57 ERA vs. Oriole bats this season. O’s fans will want to follow the Boston/NY game which will run simultaneously to the Orioles’ game, as well as the Texas/Oakland game which begins at 10 PM.