I have a confession to make, I’ve been battling writer’s block. For most of this season, what I wanted to write about has come pretty easily, whether it’s the importance of Matt Wieters to the pitching staff, the addition of Francisco Rodriguez to the bullpen, or the first callup of Kevin Gausman. Recently, though, I’ve been having a tough time figuring out what I want to write about! Tonight, I figured out that the Orioles & I have the same problem, R.I.S.P, or runners in scoring position.
No, I don’t have actual runners in scoring position in my brain, but I’ve had so many stories backed up in my head that I haven’t been able to put one down on paper! Last night’s tough 4-3 loss to Tampa Bay, a hated division foe with one of the best pitching staffs in the majors, finally seems to have unclogged my mind. The offense was there, a team doesn’t often churn out 15 hits and lose, but that team would be much more likely to lose if 15 men were left on base, as was the case last night for Baltimore. Chris Tillman battled through 6 innings, only giving up four runs on five hits, which should have been enough to at least earn him a no-decision even though three of those runs came via the home run ball. However, the pesky problem that has been plaguing the O’s reared its head again, the team just couldn’t seem to get anyone across the plate.
Utility infielder & David Price killer Danny Valencia had a great night, 3-4 with an RBI & a walk (making him 9-12 in his career against Price), but he also struck out with Nick Markakis on first in the 9th inning and only one out. Chris Davis, Manny Machado, and Adam Jones each had a hit, but only Machado was able to cross the plate. Matt Wieters continued his hot hitting against the Rays, going 3-5 with a home run & 2 RBIs, but he also struck out. Just one night after going 2-3 with 2 huge RBIs against Colorado, Brian Roberts went 0-5 with a strikeout.
This is a scary statistic… The Orioles have now lost an incredible 17 games this season when they have out-hit their opponents.
— ⚾ DJC Sports (@DJC_Sports) August 20, 2013
Last night’s bullpen participants, Brian Matusz, Francisco Rodriguez, Troy Patton, and Tommy Hunter, did an admirable job keeping the game as close as it was. Lost in the continual praise of Chris Davis‘s bat has been his improvement as a defender, and never has that been more evident then his gigantic snare of Yuniel Escobar’s liner and his quick throw to J.J. Hardy to double rookie Wil Myers off 2nd base in the 7th inning. Matusz somehow managed to get out of that bases loaded jam created by Rodriguez, K-Rod had allowed three consecutive singles, by getting the third out after the huge Davis/Hardy double play.
An issue the team was dealing with early in the season, lack of patience at the plate, seems to have abated as much of the lineup had at least one or two quality at bats last night and made the Tampa pitchers work. Rays starter David Price rarely gives up walks, but the Orioles showed great patience, forcing Price to give up two walks, and the team to give up a total of four.
I’m not a baseball genius, I don’t have the answer of how to fix the R.I.S.P. problem that has been plaguing the Orioles. Now, more than ever, as the team embarks on a long stretch of games against clubs with winning records like Tampa, Oakland, Boston and Cleveland, stringing together quality at-bats that produce runs, not just hits, could prove to be the difference between who makes the playoffs and who doesn’t. Lady Luck has been fickle this season when it comes to the Orioles (see the number of doubles this year that might have been home runs last year and their number of 1-run losses), but it’s the teams who can successfully marry luck, opportunity, great defense, and execution in critical run scoring opportunities that usually end up playing baseball well into October.