Alexi Casilla made a pretty big base running blunder on the final play of yesterday’s 5-4 loss to Boston. With one down Casilla was on first with Ryan Flaherty at the plate. Flaherty hit a fading liner towards right field, which appeared ready to fall for a base hit. That’s certainly what Casilla thought was going to happen, as he was on his way to third base. However Boston right fielder Shane Victorino somehow got to the ball. Victorino almost came across as guilty as he threw the ball back to first base for the final out as the Baltimore Orioles fell 5-4 in game three of a four-game set.
To his credit, Casilla said after the game that he blew it. He called it the worst base running in the game. I’ll be very honest; while there’s little room for excuses in these situations in baseball, I do feel a twinge of sympathy for Casilla. As aggravating as that play had to be for Orioles’ fans to see, sometimes athletes do things like that which just can’t be explained. Casilla’s blunder is hardly up there with the likes of Roy “wrong way” Riegels or Jim Marshall, who picked up fumbles and ran the wrong way in football (scoring for the opposition). We’ve all heard the term “something just clicked into place;” in some cases the opposite happens.
Freddy Garcia was haunted by the long ball once again yesterday afternoon. Garcia’s line: 5.1 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 3 K. Garcia started off strong by retiring Boston quickly in the first inning to bring the homestanding O’s to bat. The Birds put two runs on the board quickly on Manny Machado‘s RBI-double, and Adam Jones‘ RBI-single on a swinging bunt. Machado is really raking the doubles, as that was his 31st of the season. The home run power for Machado isn’t quite there consistently yet, however he’s certainly using every part of the field to get balls down and into play. And that’s fine with the Orioles and Buck Showalter, who thus far is looking like a genius in batting Machado second. I was in the camp that raised their eyebrows at the beginning of the season when I heard that, but the results are unquestioned.
The big turning point in the game came in the fourth inning with the Birds still holding that 2-0 lead. Dustin Pedroia appeared to swing-and-miss on a two-strike count. At first home plate umpire Jeff Nelson appeared to call a strike, but Pedroia insisted that he foul tipped the ball. Nelson eventually concurred and Pedroia singled to center on the next pitch. He proceeded to steal second after a David Ortiz strikeout, and Mike Carp tied the game at two with a home run. Jonny Gomes would single and eventually score on Drew’s RBI-double to give Boston the lead at 3-2.
Garcia wasn’t the same after that incident with Dustin Pedroia, who admitted after the game that he never fouled the ball off. Buck Showalter came out to argue with Jeff Nelson, however it was to no avail. According to Pedroia, after Nelson called strike three he simply said that he felt he fouled the ball off and Nelson immediately reversed course and said “foul ball.” That’s the part that sticks out at me, and that should frustrate Orioles fans the most. If Pedroia says he fouled it off, then he must have fouled it off…? Catcher Taylor Teagarden inadvertently dropped the ball, which added to the illusion that Pedroia had fouled the ball off from Nelson’s vantage point. I think that the Orioles can accept that umpires blow minor things like that, however in my opinion the glaringly bad part is the fact that Nelson just accepted Pedroia’s testimony on the skip and changed his call. (That also seemed to aggravate Buck Showalter, who later had a shouting match with Nelson over balls and strikes from the dugout.)
As bad of a break as that was, Garcia also admitted that he has to overcome that. That’s tough no doubt, however it’s something that needs to be done if you’re going to put your team in a position to win. The effort and contribution of T.J. McFarland can’t be overlooked in this game either. McFarland entered following Garcia, and pitched the rest of the game for the Orioles as he’s done on numerous other occasions. Going into this afternoon’s series finale the Birds will now have a rested bullpen in the later innings. Against a team like Boston that fouls off so many pitches, that’s a huge advantage.
The BoSox would put two more runs across and head to the last of the ninth up 5-2. However following Adam Jones’ single after working the count on Boston closer Andrew Bailey, Matt Wieters slugged the Birds back into the game with a homer onto the flag court in right field. However with Casilla getting picked off at first, it was not to be for the Birds. This was really a bizzare game all-around. As easy as it is to blame Casilla, it can’t be overlooked that Boston got an extra out in the Pedroia sequence. Pedroia obviously came into score, and low and behold the Birds lost by a run in the end. Boston starter John Lackey also committed a clear balk that left Nate McLouth screaming at first base in the fifth, but it was never called. (Showalter also mentioned that in his postgame presser; the O’s were obviously not happy with the umpiring yesterday overall.) McLouth was later caught stealing. But that’s baseball.
The Orioles are still in a position to take the series this afternoon with Miguel Gonzalez on the mound facing off against Jon Lester, who’s owned the Birds throughout his career. He’s 14-1 against them overall, and 7-0 at the yard. However keep in mind that most of those wins were against pretty lousy Orioles teams. We’re now in a different era.