It’s tough to win games if you don’t score any runs; in fact it’s impossible. It doesn’t matter if you give up one run or one million…it’s still impossible to win. Baltimore Orioles’ rookie Kevin Gausman got battered around yesterday to the tune of seven runs in his start, in what was probably his toughest outing in the majors. Gausman’s line: 4.1 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 3 BB, 6 K. The six strikeouts show you that Gausman has great strikeout potential however, and I would submit that the stat line is only one snapshot of what actually happened in the game.
Believe it or not, the Orioles have turned into a team who’s aim is to out-slug you. This has it’s down side also, as it’s fairly obvious that a few hitters are trying to hit home runs when they come to the plate and they end up striking out. However to that tune, Tampa is a team that’s perfectly happy playing small ball. It isn’t the big blows that worry you about Tampa, it’s the two-out walks or base hits that you have to be concerned with. This is in stark contrast to the other teams in the division, and again Tampa and manager Joe Maddon seem to relish that. Gausman got ahead of a lot of hitters in his short outing yesterday, however being a spry team and one that adjusts well, they were able to battle back in the counts and eventually get on base. And whereas many teams (including now the Orioles) are trying to beat you with power, Tampa’s very much a “one thing at a time” type of team. Their first aim is to get on base, their next aim is to run the bases, and after that they try to get home. And they’re one of the most patient teams at the plate in the league, thus forcing you to throw it over the dish. From the perspective of their opponent, it can be incredibly frustrating.
Again, Tampa’s a small-ball team; they took an early 3-0 lead on three separate RBI-singles. In a way the simplicity of it makes sense; most teams would get a bunch of runners on base in an inning and consider scoring one or two runs a bit of a disappointment. Joe Maddon looks at that and says that now you have to score more than that to beat us. And keep in mind that Tampa has great pitching, as the Orioles found out yesterday against Jeremy Hellickson. It’s fair to say that the Orioles’ offense has been in a bit of a lull of late, however whenever a good offensive team – which the Orioles are – cools off a bit you also have to look at who they’re facing. They’ve run into Tampa’s solid pitching staff this weekend, and Houston’s pitchers threw very well against them last week also (granted the O’s still took two-of-three).
Ben Zobrist led off the fifth inning with a double on Gausman’s first pitch, and then went to third base on a fly out. That was followed by an Evan Longoria walk which put runners at the corners…again, small ball. James Loney lined an RBI-single into the outfield on a two strike count, and Tampa led 4-0. Following another walk the bases were juiced, and Luke Scott came to the plate as Gausman gave way to T.J. McFarland. As Orioles fans found out when Scott was with the Birds, he’s a very streaky hitter. He’s either going amazingly good or horribly bad. He was in one of those tough stretches entering the series, however he cleared the bases with a three-RBI triple to open the game up for Tampa with a 7-0 lead. Scott himself would later score on an RBI-double to close out the scoring in Tampa’s 8-0 win.
If you want a silver lining for the O’s in this one, McFarland ate up 2.2 innings in long relief. I suspect that Buck Showalter was hoping he could stretch McFarland out for the rest of the game, however that’s a long amount of time for a reliever. Instead Showalter summoned Pedro Strop to pitch the eighth inning, who came off the DL yesterday. Strop gave up one hit and struck out two, so he was solid in his short outing which bodes well for the Orioles’ bullpen moving forward. Many of the injured Orioles such as Brian Roberts, Wei-Yin Chen, and Wilson Betemit joined the team this weekend (with the Orioles’ spring training complex in Sarasota being so close), and Roberts actually said that he’s expecting to be back in the lineup on a day-to-day basis before the all-star break. Betemit has begun running drills and says that his knee is feeling much better, while Chen has recently begun throwing.
The O’s will need to find some way to deal with Tampa and their small ball tactics this afternoon if they want to salvage one game in this series. As I said, they seemingly have no problem taking what they can get, even if it’s one run. However one run in one inning piles up with one run in another inning, and suddenly you’re trailing 3-0. Then when they do have a big inning suddenly the competitive phase of the game is over. The good news for the Birds is that their most consistent pitcher, Chris Tillman, will be on the mound this afternoon at the Trop. The bad news is that Tampa will throw Matt Moore, with his 8-1 record and 2.95 ERA. The O’s couldn’t get to the young southpaw a few weeks ago at the yard, but they’ll try their chances again this afternoon.