Like many, many Orioles fans and AL East followers, I get sick of seeing the same teams over and over – 19 times each for the four divisional foes, equaling 76 of the 162 games. Enough! No wonder all these teams and fans hate each other!
So, I never thought I’d look forward to seeing the Orioles get to the Bronx, but after the last three days in Chicago, the change was welcomed!
In this recently completed series, the White Sox three starters – John Danks, Hector Santiago, and Jose Quintana – held the Orioles to a combined 4 runs on 11 hits over 21 innings. They also gave up but 4 walks while striking out 24. They were just that good, not that the Orioles have some awful slump falling upon them. The Quintana performance yesterday was especially impressive, as he was largely unhittable.
So, I entered this evening’s first game at NY looking forward to Ivan Nova facing the Birds. He had only started five games this season and came in with but 35 innings pitched and a 4.66 ERA. His last performance was against the O’s on June 29 where he went 5.2 innings in relief, giving up 2 runs on 6 hits after David Phelps allowed 9 runs in 2.1 innings.
Well, it turned out to be more of the same unhittable stuff from a guy having his best game of the season. Nova pitched an incredible game, going 9 innings and giving up only 2 runs on 3 hits, and striking out 11. Fortunately for the Orioles, one of those hits was a 2-run 2nd-inning Matt Wieters homer following a HBP of Chris Davis.
Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez was not as sharp, though he only gave up a single 5th-inning run. Sporting an excellent split finger pitch, he however struggled with his command on pretty much everything. Miguel battles his way through so many difficult situations. In the bottom of the 5th, on a 3-0 pitch on Travis Hafner with the bases loaded after an Ichero double and intentional pass to Robinson Cano, he showed no stress. He fought his way back to get an out on a short fly to center field, with Vernon Wells then fouling out to Davis. Gonzalez’ final line was 6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 5 K … and the Birds would take a tenuous 2-1 lead through 8.5 innings.
Of course, even with half the regular Yankees on the DL, it remains the toughest three outs in baseball to finish a close game in New York in the ninth inning. Ugh! It is never easy. A leadoff single by David Adams was followed by an error on Jim Johnson on a bunt. A successful sacrifice by Ichero and intentional walk to Cano loaded the bases with one out. For the second time in the contest, Hafner faced a 3-0 count with the bases loaded. This time Hafner took ball four to tie the game. Next, Vernon Wells drilled the game winner through the hole at short to pull out the 3-2 comeback win for the Yanks.
I couldn’t bear to watch the Twitter feed and what would be said about Jim Johnson. Gosh, another blown save and loss. I’ll write that it crossed my mind to bring back O’Day for the first batter in the ninth, and then use Brian Matusz for the row of lefties at the top of the order. But we all know that Buck Showalter is not going to do business that way. I wrote just two days ago that Jim Johnson is not right. I fear these blown saves could be, in retrospect, the difference-maker at the end of the season in not making the playoffs.
You really should not win a game when you only get three hits, but you should get a win when you take a lead to the ninth inning.
Painful, painful loss.
Other Birds Watchers Observations …
The Orioles are #13 in the AL in taking walks – more than 100 less than Oakland and Boston, the top two teams. It would seem that better pitch selection would benefit their already potent offence a good bit more. But the Birds are also #11 in strike outs, whereas Boston is #4 with over 100 more.
The O’s are second to Boston in team doubles, but dead last in triples with only five.
Here is an interesting statistic: Batters’ average age (weighted by AB and games played). The Orioles are the third youngest team in the AL, trailing only Houston and Kansas City.