The tone was set early last night when Wei-Yin Chen had thrown a total of nine pitches and was almost out of the last of the first. Kendrys Morales hit a soft liner to center that Adam Jones almost caught with a shoestring catch, but it slid under his glove. Morales would later come into score, and Chen would end up throwing 25+ pitches in the inning. In the second inning Jesus Montero sent a deep shot to center that went off of Jones’ glove as he crashed into the wall. (Jones was also briefly shaken up on the play but was fine.) Both of these plays were ruled hits; while Jones said after the game that he misjudged the ball both times, they were both far from routine plays. However the fact remains that the Baltimore Orioles were in an early hole.
It’s often the small things in games that make a difference. After Morales scored and Robert Andino stuck out, Michael Saunders promptly got on base with a single. Chen threw a pitch in the dirt to Kyle Seager, which trickled ever so slightly away from Matt Wieters. Wieters was on the ball immediately and fired it down to second base, however Saunders (who was threatening to steal to begin with) was already sliding into the bag. Seager grounded out to short, which in theory would have been a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning. Instead it brought Kendrys Morales to the plate with two outs and a runner in scoring position, and he delivered with an RBI-single.
Due in part to that long first inning, Chen was only able to go four innings in last night’s game. Chen’s line: 4 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 6 K. However Chen came across as a different pitcher after Jones’ would-be shoestring catch in the first inning. He seemed to immediately lose the command to attack the strike zone, and at one point seemed to totally lose his composure on the mound in disgust with himself. One bright spot for the Orioles was that reliever Zach Clark came in to relieve Chen in the fifth, making his big league debut. Clark was a veteran of eight minor league seasons, who never gave up on his dream of pitching in the big leagues. He’s also a kid with local ties, a UMBC graduate and a native of Wilmington, DE.
As Adam Jones said in the clubhouse after the game, “…they just beat us.” The Orioles were thus denied winning their fifth straight series. They did attempt to make a game of it, with both Jones and Nick Markakis providing RBI in the sixth inning. Manny Machado also provided a solo homer on the first pitch he saw in the eighth inning. Seattle starter Aaron Harang might as well have been Felix Hernandez out there last night, and until the sixth inning he stifled Oriole bats all night. Many fans will probably grouse today that to the tune that a good team wouldn’t drop two-of-three in Seattle. For years and years I’m sure that many fan bases said that good teams don’t drop two-of-three to the Orioles. We all know that some nights it just clicks for different teams and different players in baseball. That’s just part of the deal, one way or the other.
The Orioles will now head back to California to open up a four-game series with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Granted the Angels are came out of April with a 9-17 mark (they’re currently 1-0 in May), they had the Orioles’ number big time in 2012. Chris Tillman will get the ball in game one tonight, of course coming off of that great start last weekend in Oakland. This will be your classic boy goes home story, as Anaheim, CA is Tillman’s hometown. This will be the first time that Tillman’s pitched at the “Big A,” a ballpark where he saw a lot of games with family and friends over the years during his childhood. I’m sure that will be a surreal feeling for Tillman, but he has to keep in mind that his job is to put the Orioles in a position to win the game as opposed to just putting on a show for his hometown. Admittedly, that’s a tough line to walk. Tillman will be opposed by Joe Blanton of the Angels.
Programming note: Saturday’s game will be carried by FOX at 4 PM as part of their FOX Saturday baseball program. However the game will not be shown in the entire mid-Atlantic region. The Washington Nationals’ game in Pittsburgh will also be carried by FOX, and thus if you live in the DC television market you will not be able to see the Orioles. Unfortunately FOX games are also blacked out on the MLB Extra Innings program, which means that the O’s game will literally not be watchable in those areas. (The same is true of the Nationals in the Baltimore market.)