Things started out well for the Baltimore Orioles and starting pitcher Bud Norris in Detroit yesterday. David Lough led off the game by working the count and drawing a walk; he was later plated by Chris Davis’ RBI-single. However in a move that foreshadowed the game in general, Davis was thrown out trying to stretch that single into a double. Norris proceeded to retire Detroit 1-2-3 in the last of the inning, and we were off to what looked like a good day for the Birds.
Perhaps the key turning point in the game however was the second inning when the O’s put the first two batters on, only to have Matt Wieters hit into a double play and Steve Lombardozzi pop out to end the inning. It’s tough to win games when you work your way out of runs in situations with two on and nobody out. Detroit would load the bases in the last of the third only to have Tori Hunter clear them with a three-RBI triple against Norris, who was barely able to make it through five innings. Norris’ final line: 5 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 0 BB, 2 K. Norris had
approximately 19 balls fouled off over the course of the game by Detroit hitters, which certainly drove his pitch count up. He also came across as trying to nibble on the corners of the strike zone, and as a result home plate umpire Gary Sederstrom wasn’t very generous with his strike zone on borderline calls.
On the other hand, Detroit’s Rick Porcello held Oriole bats at bay after the first time through the order. This is something we’ve seen several times over the course of this still very young season; once opposing pitchers have gone through the Oriole order once, they seem to figure the Birds out. In Porcello’s case he simply got stronger and stronger, inducing ground ball out after ground ball out. Furthermore he seemed to attack Oriole hitters whereas Norris tried to nibble as I said above.
Tori Hunter hit the Orioles hard again in the last of the fifth with a two-run homer, and Detroit added an RBI-triple and a sac fly-RBI in the seventh to run the score to 7-1. Make no mistake about the fact that Porcello was on his game yesterday. However the O’s didn’t appear to be in a mood to take pitches, which is part of why when he left the game Porcello had only thrown 94 pitches. The Orioles seem to be reverting to their forms of 2011 when they were a very free-swinging team. However the starting pitching also needs to improve if this team is going to go anywhere this season. And Buck Showalter would be the first to tell you that it’s no excuse to bring up the various facts that could be brought up. The fact is that the Birds are 1-4, which is not even remotely close to anything which is not surmountable. But they need to start zeroing in on these games in order to prevent this from going further south quickly.
But a funny thing happened as the game went to the top of the ninth; the Orioles remembered their nickname: The Fighting Showalters. The O’s were down by six runs, but in the ninth inning they chipped away. Chris Davis led off with a single and he later scored on Adam Jones’ RBI-triple. Jones would score on a groundout by Nick Markakis, however a split-second later the bases were loaded after a walk and two base hits. J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters scored on Steve Clevenger’s two-RBI double (as a pinch hitter), and Lombardozzi scored on an Alex Gonzalez error. However when all was said and done, Detroit remained one run better than the Orioles – but by a hair.
A loss is a loss from the Orioles’ standpoint, however there’s no question that Oriole bats got on track in the ninth inning. It’s supremely important for the Birds to take that momentum into tomorrow’s game. The odds of putting together a six-run rally to tie a game in the ninth inning are slight, however at the very least we got to see what can happen when this team puts pressure on the opposition. If the Birds can turn things around from here on, you might look at that ninth inning as a turning point. Incidentally for those who don’t think every base runner/potential run don’t mean too much, all other things being equal how big was Chris Davis being thrown out trying to get to second base in the first inning? Incidentally, there was a chance that Clevenger could have ended up on third base (scoring another run) after his at-bat, however the ball bounced up into the stands for a ground-rule double.
Unfortunately the road doesn’t get much easier for the O’s, as they’ll face Justin Verlander in tomorrow’s series finale in Detroit. The Orioles will throw Chris Tillman out against Verlander but more importantly against this Detroit offense which has been hot against Oriole pitching thus far this weekend. So that leaves Tillman hoping to play the role of stopper. You do get the impression that once this team breaks out it’s going to come fast and furious, however for the time being the issue remains breaking out. It’ll be interesting to see if Buck Showalter reverts to the old “Sunday lineup” concept tomorrow with the team needing a win and with it not being a day game after a night game (from the standpoint of Matt Wieters playing).