Manager Buck Showalter didn’t ever say that he left closer Jim Johnson in yesterday’s game for too long in the top of the 11th inning, however I think it was something that was understood. Johnson threw 24 pitches total in the game, and walked in the would-be winning run after loading the bases in the 11th. The general rule of thumb is that the magic number for closers is 20 pitches before things get dicey. Again, Johnson threw 24 pitches, and the final four were all balls that walked in the go-ahead run. Does this mean that Showalter mismanaged the bullpen? I wouldn’t say that, however the fact is that you live and learn.
The fact that the Baltimore Orioles were in extra innings to begin with is somewhat noteworthy. The Birds called up Josh Stinson from triple-A Norfolk to make what amounted to a spot start, and they came away with a mixed bag of results. Stinson’s line: 5.2 IP, 5 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 3 K. You might be asking where the “good” part of the mixed bag is. Stinson threw only 76 pitches in that 5.2 innings, and while he gave up four home runs he also recorded a lot of outs very efficiently. I also felt as if he shrugged off the fact that he had given up a homer very quickly in that he refocused himself right away and got the next guy out. Immediately following the game Stinson was optioned back to triple-A Norfolk, and the Orioles are expected to make a corresponding roster move today. Whomever it is will be next Monday’s starting pitcher, so my money is on either Steve Johnson or Zach Britton.
The O’s took an early 1-0 lead on Adam Jones‘ RBI-double, plating Nate McLouth. However Toronto’s home run parade began an inning later as Arencibia smacked a two-run homer. Before Stinson would depart the game he would surrender five runs, all on homers. Jose Bautista, Juan Encarnacion, and Rajai Davis would all join the party. However Oriole bats got Stinson off the hook for the loss. With the Birds trailing 5-2 in the last of the seventh, Nolan Reimold was able to score from first (following a walk) on Ryan Flaherty‘s double. That chased Toronto started Brandon Morrow from the game, and brought the tying run to the plate. That run was in the form of Nate McLouth, who not only plated Flaherty but also managed to steal second base in the aftermath. McLouth probably would have scored on Manny Machado‘s triple as it was from first, but the fact that he was already in scoring position didn’t hurt.
The last thing that the Orioles probably wanted just before a west coast trip was an extra inning game. However they had a golden chance to win it in the 10th, but couldn’t do it. With two outs Manny Machado was on second with Adam Jones on first. J.J. Hardy smacked a single to center field; third base coach Bobby Dickerson sent Machado home, and he was gunned out at the plate by center fielder Rajai Davis. If hindsight is 20/20, I’m sure that Dickerson wishes had hadn’t sent Machado. However generally a run’s going to score from second on a single. Furthermore being an extra inning game and the Orioles being the home team, all it takes is one run and the game’s over. So Bobby Dickerson did the right thing by sending him; it took a good throw to get him at home plate, and Davis made a good throw.
With Johnson allowing the go-ahead run in the 11th, the Orioles snapped a streak of 17 consecutive wins in extra inning games (dating back to last year). That’s certainly noteworthy, however it was bound to happen at some point. The Birds finished the homestand with a 6-3 mark (or “holding serve at 6-3″ as Buck Showalter said), taking 2-of-3 in every series. You’ll take that no matter who you are. The Orioles are playing good baseball right now, and they’re going to need to continue to do just that as they head to the west coast. They open up an 11-game road trip out west tonight; they’ll play four in Oakland, three in Seattle (where they’ll meet up with old friend Robert Andino), and four in Anaheim. As we know, Oakland has long been a very tough place for the Orioles to play, and it’s widely considered one of the worst ballparks in baseball. The fact that the Orioles will be going out there with no day off in between is equally unnerving; they’ll basically be playing tonight’s game at 10 PM if their body clocks are to be believed.
On that note, Orioles fans are in for some late nights as we move forward; tonight and tomorrow night’s games will begin at 10 PM eastern time, as will the games next week in Seattle and the first two in Anaheim. However this Saturday and Sunday’s games will be at 4 PM eastern time (1 PM local time starts in Oakland). The Orioles will send Jason Hammel back to the mound tonight in hopes that he can once again provide some decent innings for the Orioles. He was hit around pretty good in his last start against the LA Dodgers, however one benefit to Oakland’s park is that it’s a pitchers park. Foul balls that would be in the fifth or sixth row at the yard (if not further up) are outs in Oakland. This is really a key game for the Birds because as I said above Oakland has been a tough place to play, and they’ve had no day off in between. Furthermore, Oakland (and Texas) was in the mix with the O’s last year in the playoff standings, so any one of these games could mean something much bigger come September. Hammel will be opposed by Oakland’s Jarrod Parker.