In the minds of many fans, the 2013 Baltimore Orioles are a disappointment. I’m not really sure that’s fair to the team, however people are entitled to their opinions. Nevertheless, with last night’s 9-5 win over Toronto the Birds clinched their second consecutive winning season by reaching 82 wins. Some people might say that’s merely a formality that doesn’t vouch for too much, especially in the absence of a post season birth. However put into the context of 14 consecutive losing seasons, I would submit that it’s an important feat. You’re still sitting at home in October with everyone else, but you don’t have quite as far to go as they do in order to put yourself into the playoffs next year.
Bud Norris made what will end up being his final start of 2013, only sticking around for four innings. Norris’ line: 4 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 5 K. On a side note, the end of the season will probably bring an opportunity for Norris to catch his breath. Norris of course was traded to the Orioles from Houston in July when the Astros were in Baltimore, and was immediately thrust into a pennant race. Nevertheless, Buck Showalter altered his lineup last night, giving a few players some well-needed time off. Jason Pridie was called up from Norfolk and started in center field in place of Adam Jones, Steve Clevenger started behind the plate in place of Matt Wieters, Steve Pearce started at first base (with Davis DHing), and Jonathan Schoop made his big league debut at second base (more on that later on).
Toronto took an early 3-0 lead on Norris and the Orioles, however Oriole bats suddenly came alive for the first time in awhile. Schoop recorded his first major league hit on a grounder up the middle, which was followed by a Ryan Flaherty home run out onto Eutaw St. The Birds tied the game in the last of the fourth with a home run by Pearce, and suddenly we had a dog fight. The last of the fifth brought RBI by Nick Markakis, Chris Davis, and Jason Pridie, and the Birds led 6-3.
After Toronto netted a run back in the sixth, Jonathan Schoop continued his night of firsts by clubbing his first major league home run in the last of the inning. He would later walk in the eighth and Ryan Flaherty followed with his second home run of the game, and the Birds ran away with it 9-5. Over the past few weeks I feel that the Orioles had probably become a very predictable team, partly due in part to guys being so dead tired. Toronto looked like they expected the same predictable Orioles last night, however instead what they got were well-rested young guys who were trying to make an impact at the big league level. Furthermore, I suspect that when the likes of Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, et al return to the lineup (presumably tonight), they might be a bit more spry after having some rest.
This is not a conviction of the Orioles, Buck Showalter’s lineups, or anything else. However as MASN’s Jim Palmer said during the game, the O’s will probably need to beef up their secondary players this off season. But that’s a conversation we can have sometime after this Sunday. The act of being over .500 for the season may not equal a post season birth, but it’s something on which to build for 2014. Miguel Gonzalez will make his final start of 2013 in the series finale against Toronto this evening, and he’ll be opposed by Mark Buehrle. The winner of tonight’s game will not only win this series, but the season series as well.