O's eliminated from playoff race but dodge a bullet

Last night’s 3-2 loss followed an all too familiar pattern for the Baltimore Orioles, who were eliminated from playoff contention in the aftermath. Going into the game, the Orioles’ elimination number was two, meaning that any combination of Cleveland wins and Orioles’ losses equaling two would eliminate the Birds. Chicago took a one-run lead in the top of the ninth in Cleveland, but a Giami walk-off homer won it for the Tribe. In the Orioles’ case, we’ve seen this time and time again over the past few weeks. The Birds had a small lead, only to give it up in crunch time and end up losing on late-game heroics by the opponent.

Courtesy of Joy Absalon

Chris Tillman appeared to be in line for his 17th win of the season, as he turned in another gem for the Orioles. Tillman’s line: 7.0 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 9 K. People can say what they wish about Orioles’ pitching on the whole, but those are numbers worthy of a victory and then some. At one point during the game I tweeted that while Chris Davis should without a doubt win the “Most Valuable Oriole” award this year, Tillman at least deserves honorable mention. With Toronto leading 1-0, Brian Roberts led off the last of the third with a home run to tie the game. Nate McLouth followed with a homer of his own to give the Orioles the lead.

That one-run lead seemed to stand up for the O’s, however a Kevin Gausman (who came in to pitch in the eighth following Tillman) wild pitch allowed a runner to go from second to third. Mark DeRosa‘s base hit off of Brian Matusz tied the game at two. After the game went to extra inning it was DeRosa who once again singled Jose Reyes home to give Toronto a 3-2 lead. DeRosa also recorded the final out, thus allowing him to play the part that Ben Zobrist seemed to play all weekend long in Tampa (as the guy who pretty much killed the Orioles under all circumstances).

One thing of note; Reyes was almost picked off of second base in that 10th inning. In fact, he was picked off of second. Francisco Rodriguez turned and threw behind Reyes, but he was ruled safe by second base umpire Gerry Davis. My personal opinion was that Reyes was out, but MASN replays showed the play to be closer than originally though. Part of the issue was that Brian Roberts moved the glove a bit as opposed to leaving it idle, which might have given the illusion that he missed the tag. I do believe that umpires’ calls can often be influenced by perception; on Monday in Tampa the Orioles had a sequence where a pitch was thrown right down the middle on a two-strike count. MASN pitch track replays seemed to back that up, as the pitch was right in the strike zone. However Matt Wieters had set up outside, and he actually had to reach back into the strike zone to receive the pitch. This gave the impression that the pitch was inside. It might not be right and it might not be fair, but perception can often be reality.

Again, this loss eliminates the Birds from playoff contention. However Baltimore fans should be proud that their team was once again playing meaningful games into the last week of the season. The final five games will in effect be meaningless for the Orioles, although I do feel that it’s important to finish strong. But perhaps the story of the night for the Birds was the news regarding Manny Machado‘s health. Machado was officially diagnosed with a tear of his medial patellofemoral ligament. There was no damage to his ACL or MCL, which is good news. In fact, this is an injury with which Machado dealt in the minor leagues also, so it could even be classified as an old injury. Machado will seek a second opinion, however it’s thought that rest on it’s own could heal the injury in six to eight weeks. The Orioles will have Machado re-examined in four weeks to ensure that he’s on track for that timetable, however he’s expected to be ready for spring training next year.

The Orioles and Toronto will play game two of this now totally meaningless three-game set at Camden Yards tonight, with Bud Norris taking to the bump for the O’s. He’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Esmil Rogers.

Tags: Baltimore Orioles Manny Machado

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