It goes without saying that the bullpen imploded in the Baltimore Orioles’ 4-3 loss to Boston last night. However work with me for a second. Adam Jones scorched three different balls in last night’s game, all of which recorded outs. Yet Boston tied last night’s game on a seeing eye single that barely made it past the fielders’ mitts and into the outfield. They then took the lead on a bloop single that again barely cleared the fielder’s mitt, and was hit about as softly as it possibly could be. When things are going well for you those are the breaks you get, and when things aren’t…those are how the breaks go.
Bud Norris had some tense moments in the game, but ultimately he put the Orioles in a position to win and left with the lead. Norris’ line: 5.1 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 7 K. The lone run that Boston scored against Norris was on a Shane Victorino RBI-single in the third inning. Dustin Pedroia then walked on four consecutive pitches, which loaded the bases with one out. However Norris managed to strikeout David Ortiz and Daniel Nava to end the inning. Ortiz struck out swinging, and yet he still appeared poised to argue the strike call with the home plate umpire. I suppose he just didn’t want an at-bat taken away from him.
The O’s struck immediately out of the gate in the first inning when Manny Machado scored from first base on Chris Davis‘ double. Machado would later homer in the top of the third to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead. However to just prior to that homer Brian Roberts was thrown out stealing at third base for the second out of the inning. Roberts had walked, and then stole second. This drew the ire of several Orioles fans in the social media world, especially after Machado’s homer. The prevailing thought appeared to be that Roberts cost the team a run. (And the fact that the Birds lost the game by one run probably adds fuel to this fire.) First off I didn’t feel that it was sound baseball logic to try to steal third in that instance. Granted Roberts could have scored on a sac fly at that point, however when you’re at second base you’re already in scoring position. However Boston starter John Lackey is going to pitch a batter differently with two outs and nobody on than he is with one out and a runner at third. Furthermore, while Roberts was thrown out he also got into Lackey’s head and threw him a bit off-kilter. If you’re going to take the all things being the same stance (basically that Machado would have hit the homer with Roberts on third exactly as he did in reality), then yes maybe that cost the team a run. But that’s a tough argument to make, especially when Roberts loosened Lackey up a bit for Machado.
The O’s would stretch the lead to 3-1 in the sixth when Chris Davis extended his major league lead in homers to 47 with a lead off home run. With one out in the last of the seventh Boston had runners at the corners, and the O’s brought Darren O’Day in to pitch. Jacoby Ellsbury was at first base, but he was also apparently injured after fouling a pitch off his foot. Yet he somehow managed to steal second base and get into scoring position. (MASN’s Gary Thorne and Jim Palmer wondered aloud if Ellsbury hadn’t been bluffing the injury to make the Birds think he wasn’t stealing, however he later came out of the game.) When things aren’t going well for you, that’s how things break. Following a Victorino line out, Dustin Pedroia hit the aforementioned seeing eye single, on which the injured Ellsbury was sent home to tie the game. That’s how slowly and deliberately that ball was hit; a guy that fouled a ball off his foot was able to score from second base. Again, that’s how the breaks fall sometimes.
With two outs in the last of the eighth, Saltalamacchia almost gave Boston the lead with what appeared to be a homer to left field. However it hit off the green monster, and he settled for a double. Buck Showalter intentionally walked J.D. Drew, and Boston sent up Mike Carp as a pinch hitter. Carp’s soft – and I mean soft - blooper to left field barely cleared the glove of third baseman Manny Machado, allowing Saltalamacchia scored from second base to give Boston a 4-3 lead. There’s your ballgame.
Those are the luxuries that you’re afforded when things are going well for you as they are Boston right now. As I said above, Adam Jones had three very loud outs in this game. Yet it’s the softly hit balls which end up beating the O’s. Is the bullpen suspect? Yes, and if the Birds are going to make a run of it at the end that’s something that’s going to need to change. However sometimes the line between winning and losing is a bit finer than simply hitting your spots coming out of the pen.
On a different note, the Orioles put in a waiver claim on Minnesota’s Josh Willingham according to industry sources. Minnesota will have 48 hours to either pull him back or to work out a trade. Willingham could be a bit of an upgrade as a right-handed DH, although he’s only hitting .215 this year. Yet he has an OBP of .347, so he does get on base, which might be what the Orioles need more than anything else. The series in Boston concludes tonight with the Orioles looking to take one game to avoid a sweep. Chris Tillman will be on the mound for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s John Lester.