Courtesy of: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Orioles: Going to the end of the line

So we find ourselves on the morning of September 29, 201 – the last day of the season. The Baltimore Orioles aren’t going to the playoffs, however we’d be hard-pressed to argue that they were a flop in 2013. What will the off season bring? Personnel changes? Gold glove awards?…who knows?! One way or the other, I suppose I’ll have to cease using headlines that offer a flair for the dramatic, as the Orioles won’t take the field again as a team until next February/March at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota. That also means that I can put the Game Previews/Recaps category to rest until then. But these are minor points of emphasis for the time being…

One thing that’s certain is that the Orioles aren’t going quietly into the night. Let’s not forget that this team wasn’t officially eliminated from playoff contention until Tuesday evening, so they’re still used to fighting and scrapping. Wei-Yin Chen provided mixed results in his final start of the season; he looked fairly good, but he couldn’t make it out of the sixth inning. Chen’s line: 5.1 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 5 K. However the star of the night was Steve Pearce, who had a career game. His RBI-double in the last of the second scored Nick Markakis, and gave the Birds a 1-0 lead. One inning later Brian Roberts hit what could be his last home run as an Oriole, and the Birds led 2-0. Roberts’ contract is of course up after the season, and it’s unclear what the future holds for him. These are all things that will be discussed here on Birds Watcher in the coming weeks.

Boston put two RBI-singles up in the fourth and fifth innings to tie the score, however Matt Wieters and Danny Valencia followed suit with RBI-singles of their own in the last of the fifth and suddenly the O’s had a 4-2 lead. In a back-and-forth affair like this, a two-run lead could be considered pretty big. However Boston put one across in the sixth before Daniel Nava gave them a brief lead in the seventh. Jonny Gomes‘ RBI-single had tied the game, and Nava’s single in effect gave them the lead. However he was not credited with an RBI, as Jason Pridie dropped the ball in left field after letting it bounce. That allowed a run to score, although it also allowed the Orioles to throw Nava out on the base paths.

So when you have a playoff team against a spoiler and the playoff team takes the lead late, that’s generally the end, right? But these are the Fighting Showalters we’re talking about, and they always play until the final out. Back-to-back singles by Matt Wieters (who was lifted for pinch-runner Nate McLouth) and Danny Valencia put two runners on for the Orioles. Steve Pearce came

through once again for a two-RBI double, and the Orioles had a 6-5 lead. Jim Johnson allowed one base runner in the ninth, before getting into a 3-1 count to Jonny Gomes. He appeared ready to head to first base, however to his surprise the pitch was called strike two. MASN’s pitch track backed up the fact that it was in the strike zone, and the same was true of the 3-2 pitch, on which Gomes was rung up to end the game.

With the victory, the Orioles stretched their record against Boston on the year to 10-8 which guarantees them a winning record against the BoSox in 2013. That’s a small consolation given that they aren’t going to the post season, however it’s something. The O’s held their own against Boston and Toronto, however they struggled against New York and Tampa, which is one of the reasons why they’ll be at home after tomorrow. When you’re as close as the Orioles were this season, it’s easy to say a bounce the other way here, or a roll there…but it’s really beside the point.

The biggest reason the Orioles faded in September is because of the bats being inconsistent. (And please note that I used the term faded in September. I”ve seen some writers call this an epic meltdown, similar to the 2011 BoSox. Nothing could be further from the truth in my view.) As I’ve said before, that’s due in large part to the fact that a lot of guys were tired; the O’s have five players (including Manny Machado, who’s going to see Dr. James Andrews) that played over 150 games this year. This is something we’ll discuss as we get into the off season here on Birds Watcher, however it should come as no surprise that Steve Pearce was the guy who provided the clutch hit last night. He’s a guy who hasn’t played everyday, and thus has a lot more rest and less mileage under his belt than Jones, Markakis, et al.

The Orioles have played 161 games, and they’ll close this series with Boston and the 2013 season this afternoon at Camden Yards. After much discussion, the Orioles will send Chris Tillman out to the mound one final time today, and he’ll be opposed by John Lackey. The Orioles have a record of 84-77, so even a victory in their final game won’t reach my prediction of 89 wins. However it would serve as a spring board for the fights yet to come in 2014. But that’s another story for another day. As the 2013 Orioles move to the end of the line, they only hope to get there on a positive note.

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