After sweeping Texas in three games, the Baltimore Orioles dropped three-of-four in Kansas City (culminated by last night’s 7-1 loss). So in knowing that the Boston Red Sox were waiting for them at home, are the Birds guilty of looking past what some would deem a lesser opponent? On one hand the Orioles’ clubhouse is full of professionals, and I think that most people would agree that they just don’t seem like the type to look past another team. However on the other hand the results of the series might beg to differ. Furthermore, I would submit that on a certain level it’s human nature to on occasion pull a stunt like looking past an opponent. Is it any different than looking past one’s Friday work load to the weekend?
Miguel Gonzalez got tagged with the loss in last night’s game, and Kansas City jumped on him early. Gonzalez’s line: 4.2 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 1 BB, 0 K. The zero strikeouts doesn’t necessarily mean that he wasn’t throwing strikes; if anything he was probably taking just a bit too much of the plate. By way of an RBI-double and an RBI-single, Kansas City took a 2-0 lead in the first inning. That was extended to 3-0 on a sac fly-RBI in the second, and Kansas City was also able to put up three runs in the fifth. They spread their run production around throughout the innings, and the Orioles appeared to be a step behind for most of the evening. Perhaps a step behind is a bit harsh, but to say the least they were sluggish.
The Orioles’ lone run came in the fifth inning on a Brian Roberts RBI-double, which followed Henry Urrutia‘s first ever big league triple. The O’s seemed poised to make somewhat of a mini-rally, as Nate McLouth followed with a sinking liner to left field that was caught by Alex Gordon to end the inning. Had that ball fallen in Roberts would have scored and the inning would have continued. MASN replays were pretty conclusive to the effect that Gordon trapped the ball, so yes that was what one could deem a “bum call.” However I find myself in the rare position of taking up for an umpire on this one. While Gordon did in fact trap the ball, it was very subtle (and probably not visible to the naked eye). The umpires were way back in the infield, and quite frankly I can’t blame them for blowing that one. Was it a bum call and did it directly cost the Orioles a run (and perhaps a shot at a legitimate rally)? Absolutely. However this is also the human element of the game. Gordon did a great job of selling the play, and in fact he probably didn’t even know he trapped the ball – that’s how subtle it was. Incidentally, that’s the type of play that instant replay would definitely correct if it were available to umpires in that situation.
There wasn’t much drama left in this game in the later innings, although Francisco Rodriguez made his Orioles debut in the seventh inning and promptly gave up a homer to Brett Butler. That’s the kind of night it was for the O’s, who now find themselves having lost three straight. However the makeup of this team is such that fans probably don’t need to worry too much. Again, it’s possible that they might have taken Kansas City just a bit lightly. But we should also keep in mind that Kansas City played the O’s very tough earlier this season as well as last year. Some teams just match up well against others – be they a good team or poor. Remember the 2009 Orioles sweeping the defending World Series champion Phillies? That team just matched up well against Philadelphia. To draw a parallel in another sport, it seems that regardless of how good or bad they are, the Maryland Terrapins can always find a way to beat Duke at least once in basketball. Chalk it up to being “just one of those things.”
With that said, this weekend’s series at the yard against Boston is obviously huge. The Orioles need to get themselves back on track quickly as they get prepared to take on the first place BoSox. If history is any indication, they’ll be up for the challenge. Chris Tillman will get the start tonight, and he’ll be opposed by John Lackey. Boston had to tinker their rotation for this weekend’s series after last night’s game against Tampa was rained out. Orioles fans will also find themselves rooting for the NY Yankees again this weekend, as they play Tampa (another team the Orioles are chasing in the standings).