The Baltimore Orioles opened the final series of 2013 last night against Boston at Camden Yards, albeit things didn’t quite turn out the way that the Birds expected. The Orioles in a sense are use to playing “meaningless” games at the end of the season, but perhaps not in the manner that they’re doing right now. In the past, those meaningless games translated into possibly more meaningless games the following year. Now we see them playing games that don’t mean much right now, but we also know what they’re capable of and what the goal is for next year.
Scott Feldman was ineffective in his short amount of time in the game last night, giving up five runs in the first inning. Feldman’s line: 2.1 IP, 8 H, 1 BB, 1 K. Feldman’s pitches were up in the strike zone, and Boston hitters took advantage of that – especially in the first inning. Before the Birds even came to bat, Mike Napoli recorded a two-RBI single, followed by a Daniel Nava three-run homer. However I’d like to hope that Buck Showalter sent a message to both the team and the fans by something he did in the third inning. Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit an apparent three-run homer off the roof of the grounds crew pen in right field. It was immediately signaled a home run, however Showalter came out and asked for a review. It appeared that the ball hit off the “pre-roof padding” on the pen, which in theory would have meant it wasn’t a home run. However to use the NFL’s term, whether or not there was enough evidence to overturn the call on the field could have been another story. Yet the umpires reversed the call, awarding Saltalamacchia an RBI-double and placing runners at second and third.
Stephen Drew would plate both of those runners anyways, so Boston ended up with it’s 8-0 lead. However in ensuring that the umpires reviewed that play and then giving his two cents on where the runners should be placed, Showalter sent a message that he wasn’t done with this season yet. The team may be out of contention and in effect losing big (in that game), but that doesn’t mean you wave the white flag. I’m not even sure that Showalter was happy with where the runners ended up going, as he argued that Markakis stopped going after the ball once it was officially ruled a home run.
On a positive front for the O’s, Adam Jones hit a tw0-run homer which gave him 33 for the season. That’s a new career-high for Jones, who’s quietly had a great season at the plate. Of late he’s struggled a bit, and I would submit that part of the reason why is due to fatigue. However that’s true of a lot of players, and as I said I do feel it’s important for the Orioles to beef up their bench in the off season, because if they’re going to be in contention down the stretch they’re going to have to have rested players. When people look at the month of September and ask where the bats have gone, that’s the answer. Chris Davis also hit his major league-leading 53rd homer of the season. Most people would look at this game and say that the Orioles relied once again on the long ball for their runs, and they’d be correct. But as I said, a lot of that has to do with fatigue.
In fairness, Boston relies on the long ball a lot also. David Ortiz would add a three-run homer, and Jonny Gomes a solo shot to run the final score to 12-3. Ironically, Ortiz tied Cal Ripken Jr. on the all-time home run list at 431 for his career. The Orioles are now in a statistical tie for third place in the AL East with New York, who has a slightly easier final weekend given that they’re in Houston. If you’re looking for motivation for the last two games, finishing in third place as opposed to fourth would definitely be up there. One way or the other you’d be hard-pressed to argue that the AL East wasn’t the toughest division in baseball given that four of five teams will finish with above-.500 records, but from the Orioles’ perspective it would be nice to finish ahead of New York. They’ll continue the series tonight with Wei-Yin Chen making his final start of the season, and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s Jon Lester.