The Baltimore Orioles gave T.J. McFarland his first big league start last night against New York, but the results weren’t exactly what they hoped. McFarland’s line: 2.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 4 K. In fairness, McFarland is far from the only relief pitcher to come out of the bullpen and struggle in a spot start. There’s no question that McFarland deserved the opportunity to start a game, but being a starter is also a different mindset than being a reliever. One thing that stuck out at me is that McFarland was on an incredibly short leash; normally I don’t think that Buck Showalter would yank a guy that quickly (in general). But with this being a spot start and with McFarland presumably going back to the bullpen, you probably don’t want him to go too deep if he’s struggling so as to keep him fresh for a potential long relief role in the coming days.
New York got to McFarland early when Robinson Canoe sent an RBI-single into right field to give them a 1-0 lead. Chris Stewart would also plate two runners in the third against McFarland, who was then lifted in favor of Kevin Gausman with the Orioles trailing 3-0. Of all things, Gausman might have turned in the best outing in his very short career last night…in relief. Over the course of his 4.1 IP, he gave up three hits and struck out four. One very interesting factoid about last night’s game is that New York only walked once, and that was issued by McFarland. Normally they’re a very patient team at the plate and they work the count and take walks left and right; not last night. Obviously many of their players are also hurt, so that probably makes a bit of a difference.
NY starter C.C. Sabathia became the third opposing pitcher this week to flirt with a no-hitter against the Orioles, who didn’t get their first hit until the last of the sixth. Nate McLouth led off the inning with a single, and as was the case in the two Cleveland games the Orioles’ offense came to life after that. Alexi Casilla followed McLouth’s hit with an infield single, and suddenly the Birds had something cooking. Manny Machado plated both runners with a one-out RBI-double, and suddenly the Orioles (who had previously been being no-hit) had cut the lead to 3-2. Machado advanced to third on a J.J. Hardy pop out, and when Adam Jones was able to leg out an infield base hit the Orioles tied the game.
Nate McLouth obviously was the catalyst in the above-referenced scenario given that he got things started. Luckily for the Orioles, he also finished things up as well. One thing I noticed early in the season was that Oriole starters were pitching well for five innings or so, only to collapse unannounced in the sixth inning. Buck Showalter is apparently not the only manager who has that problem, as we saw a similar meltdown from Sabathia last night. (However to be frank, had I been Joe Girardi I would have lifted Sabathia after the three-run sixth inning so as not to put him into a position to potentially lose the game.) With two outs in the seventh, McLouth came up to face the tiring C.C. Sabathia, and promptly sent a 1-0 pitch onto the flag court in right field. Suddenly the Orioles led a game in which they were previously being no-hit, 4-3.
Tommy Hunter pitched the eighth and ninth innings, and the Orioles took game one of this series. This was a game that with which the Orioles have served themselves well by winning. Sabathia has always been a thorn in their side, and they weren’t even supposed to see him until tonight. Girardi moved his start up to last night, but the Orioles got to him just in the nick of time. The O’s will send Zach Britton back to the mound tonight in game two of this series, which will begin at 7:15 and be televised regionally by FOX. Britton will be opposed by David Phelps.