We all know that legendary riddle, what comes first, the chicken or the egg? Of late you might as whether or not opposing starters were simply pitching great games, or if the Baltimore Orioles were making them look good. The Birds are definitely pressing at the plate – up and down the lineup. But in fairness they’ve run into some starters in the past week who seem to have their hearts set on pitching the game of their lives against the O’s.
Orioles’ starter Wei-Yin Chen pitched his third consecutive good game for the Birds. Chen’s line: 6.1 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 7 K. Given the four runs given up, Chen didn’t get a quality start. However you’d be hard pressed to argue that this wasn’t a “quality” start for Chen, who in effect was left in for a few pitches too many. Chen was hovering around 100 pitches after six innings, and I was surprised that Buck Showalter sent him back out again in the seventh. Did that move in and of itself lose the game for the Birds? (Am I suggesting that this loss is on Showalter?) I didn’t help to say the least, however the Orioles only hitting 1-for-4 with runners in scoring position hurt just as much. Very rarely can you pinpoint one aspect or one statistic of a game that decides the outcome, and this game was no exception.
On the other hand, my impressions of Colorado starter Juan Nicasio were that he came across as somewhat of a below average starting pitcher. So…did he dominate the Orioles on his own merit, or did the Orioles allow themselves to be dominated? Again, probably a bit of both. The Birds took an early lead when Nate McLouth led off the first inning with a home run to right field to give the O’s a 1-0 lead. The Orioles loaded the bases in the last of the third, and Adam Jones singled the opposite way to drive in a second run to put the Birds up 2-0. However both Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters popped out, which ended the inning. Again, this is how pitchers such as Nicasio are able to defeat a team with the power that the Orioles possess. They bend but don’t break, and force the other team into making unhelpful outs. The good news is that the trend is something that can and will be fixed. I say that it will be fixed because I do feel that the Orioles are too talented of a team to allow this to go on. In order to fix the issue they have to start taking what they’re given as opposed to always looking for a big play. Hitting takes a good amount of patience, and I say that as an incredibly impatient man myself in real life! I do believe that the struggles of this Orioles team of late is simply a rut, in which baseball teams often find themselves in a 162-game stretch. Once they can string together a few positive games and wins, things will start looking up.
Chen held Colorado at bay until the fifth when Arenado’s RBI-single cut the lead to 2-1. However Charlie Culberson led off the sixth inning with a solo homer (the first of his career), which tied the game at two. Chen ended up getting out of the inning, but the Orioles’ lead was gone. Wilin Rosario of Colorado hit a two-run homer off of Chen in the seventh, which sealed the starter’s fate. One thing I will say is that I felt Buck Showalter should have demanded an instant replay review of that home run. In seeing it the first time around I felt that it never cleared the fence, a notion that appeared at least to be backed up by replays. However Buck Showalter opted not to ask for a review, which I’ll admit was a bit baffling to me. In general I tell Orioles fans to trust whatever Showalter is doing, because odds are he’s correct given his track record. However that’s one that I feel got away from him.
Colorado would hit two more homers (Blackmon in the eighth and Helton in the ninth), and Matt Wieters would add a solo shot in the last of the ninth to bring the Orioles to within 6-3. However it wasn’t their night as they dropped the series opener. Of added concern, Buck Showalter had to remove Francisco Rodriguez in the eighth inning after he suffered an apparent injury. What that injury was is still somewhat opaque, however according to Rodriguez it hampered him just a bit this past week in Arizona as well as in pregame warm ups. After the game Rodriguez said that he had experienced this issue previously in his career, but that he didn’t feel he’d have to go to the DL.
The Birds did make a roster move after the game, optioning Henry Urrutia back to triple-A Norfolk. It’s unclear who the corresponding move will be today, however Buck Showalter hinted after the game that it would be a pitcher. They’ll send Bud Norris to the mound tonight to try to be the team’s stopper. He’ll be opposed by Chad Bettis, who’s ERA is north of five. If Oriole bats are going to break out, this might be the guy against whom to do it.