For starters, the Baltimore Orioles had an opposing pitcher take a no-hitter somewhat deep on them for the second consecutive night. Cleveland starter Scott Kazmir was the master of his domain in a sense, and didn’t surrender a hit until Manny Machado‘s double in the seventh inning. However this game will be remembered more so for how it ended than anything else. Jim Johnson had an opportunity to record his 100th save, but he ended up with his fifth blown save of the year. Johnson had a tough time finding the strike zone, and when he did it appeared to be too much of the zone. Michael Brantley drew a four-pitch walk, and following a Giami double Cleveland had two runners in scoring position. Following an IBB and two fielder’s choice’s, Cleveland had a 4-3 lead.
Jason Hammel turned in another superior effort for the Birds, who had a starter go deep into a game for the second consecutive night. Hammel’s line: 7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K. Hammel stymied Cleveland hitters for most of his outing, save for Jason Kipnis‘ fourth inning home run. Unfortunately for Hammel the previous hitter had been hit by a pitch, so that gave Cleveland a 2-0 lead. The O’s would cut that lead in half in the last of the seventh when Manny Machado went to third (following his lead of double) on Kazmir’s throwing error on a pickoff attempt. Machado was actually awarded third base because Cabrera got in his way on the base paths and interfered with his ability to run the bases. A Chris Davis sac fly later, and Cleveland’s lead was down to 2-1.
Kazmir came out and warmed up in the middle of the eighth, however Cleveland manager Terry Francona and their head trainer came out of the dugout to check on him right before the inning would have started. Francona ended up lifting Kazmir with an apparent injury, and calling for reliever Joe Smith from the bullpen. Buck Showalter had a fairly heated discussion with the home plate umpire given that Smith had been warming up in the bullpen prior to Kazmir leaving the game. There did appear to be a bit of a fix that was in; relievers coming in for an injured pitcher get as much time as they need to warm up. It also allowed Smith to warm up without the Orioles getting the opportunity to see him. The fact that Kazmir went to the bench with a goofy looking smirk on his face as opposed to the clubhouse with the trainers (as most injured players do) is also somewhat telling. I suppose you can chalk it up to gamesmanship, but if that was a staged stunt it’s somewhat baffling to me why Terry Francona would do that.
Ultimately it backfired on Francona for the moment, as the Orioles loaded the bases and then tied the game on Nick Markakis‘ fielder’s choice-RBI. Manny Machado’s RBI-single would then give the Orioles a short-lived lead at 3-2. Then came Johnson’s ninth inning. It’s tough to put your finger on why things like that happen, but the fact is that they do. One interesting point is that Johnson might or might not have been all the way warmed up when he came in. He only started to warm once the O’s took the lead in the 8th, and the inning ended very soon after that. On another note, while this didn’t really affect Johnson much Buck Showalter was clearly frustrated all night by home plate umpire Ted Barrett’s strike zone. Speaking for myself, I felt that Hammel dumped some quality pitches into the zone only to have them ruled balls. After the game Showalter said that he felt Scott Kazmir used what was given to him, which I interpret as meaning he saw that the strike zone was very wide and he started using that to his advantage. Orioles’ hitters instead would keep with their own interpretation of the strike zone and continue taking pitches that were called strikes.
The Orioles also got some bad news on reliever Dylan Bundy, who is scheduled to have Tommy John‘s surgery today in Florida. That will end Bundy’s season in effect before it ever got going, as Bundy never threw a pitch in a game this year (minor or major league). Bundy will be shut down for approximately 12 months before he’ll be able to play again, which is something that’s incredibly frustrating for him and for the entire organization. The O’s were expecting Bundy to make an impact in Baltimore at some point this season; so does this make the necessity for the Orioles to trade for a top-line starter at some point this summer even greater?
The series with Cleveland concludes this evening with Miguel Gonzalez getting the assignment of shutting down a Cleveland offense that thrived late against the Oriole pen last night. Gonazlez will be opposed by Corey Kluber of Cleveland. This is a big swing-game for the Orioles with the NY Yankees coming into town for the weekend.