Along with many fans of the Baltimore Orioles, I had a bit of fun on twitter last night regarding Toronto manager John Gibbons – who requested a glove check of Miguel Gonzalez (for foreign substances). However given that there appeared to be no reason for the check, one would have to take that to believe that Gonzalez was just pitching that well. And at the time, he was; for that matter he pitched well for the better part of five innings. Gonzalez’s line: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R (2 earned), 2 BB, 7 K.
However as has been the case of late in general with Orioles’ starters, Gonzalez could not make it through six innings. An E4 in the last of the sixth on Steve Lombardozzi seemed to spook him a bit, and with Gonzalez’s pitch count already high Buck Showalter didn’t hesitate to lift Gonzalez in favor of T.J. McFarland, who had been called up from triple-A Norfolk earlier in the day. (As a corresponding roster move, the O’s DFA’d Steve Pearce.) Gonzalez was effective in last night’s game, he just tired quickly. It’s situations as such which caused the Birds to have to call up the likes of McFarland as bullpen support.
Oriole bats were stymied through the early part of the game with Toronto’s tough knuckler R.A. Dickey on the mound. Both players and hitting coaches will tell you that it will often take up to a week to get your timing back at the plate after facing a knuckleballer. Ironically, Steve Clevenger (who was catching so as to rest Matt Wieters‘ sore wrist) seemed to be the only Oriole that had any sort of success in the lineup – at first, that is. In his first two at-bats, Clevenger netted both a single and a double.
However the O’s were finally able to break through in the top of the sixth. Steve Lombardozzi doubled to lead off the inning, and Nick Markakis walked, bringing Nelson Cruz to the plate. Cruz launched a deep shot to left field, which went over the wall and gave the Birds a 3-0 lead. However low and behold, Gonzalez started to lose his composure a bit in the last of the inning. Steve Lombardozzi’s aforementioned error allowed Melky Cabrera to reach base safely, and Gonzalez then gave up a single to Jose Bautista. Edwin Encarnacion followed that up with his first homer of the season, and one that tied the score at that. While Gonzalez recorded outs on the next two batters, he was pulled by Showalter after hitting Brett Lawrie.
The O’s loaded the bases in the seventh on a single by Lombardozzi, a double by Markakis, and a Chris Davis walk. However Adam Jones and Steve Clevenger both struck out, ending the inning. My personal take on those two strikeouts was that they might have been due to the timing issues which come with facing knuckleballers that I mentioned above. And I suspect
that Toronto relievers are used to coming in to relieve Dickey in that they know that they can get away with a steady diet of breaking pitches.
If you want proof that you have to take advantage of opportunities when they come, look no further than this game. The Orioles wasted a late bases-loaded shot at putting a go-ahead run on the board, and suddenly Toronto had two men on base in the eighth with a Francisco single and a Rasmus walk. That brought Brett Lawrie to the plate with nobody down, and he sent one deep to center – and over the wall. This prompted the Toronto fans to throw their hats on the field as they do in hockey after a hat trick – since Toronto hit three different three-run homers. When you leave runs on base, eventually you’re going to be made to pay. Now in fairness to Evan Meek (who gave up the home run), the pitch was a fastball low – which is a pretty decent location. Lawrie just went down and got it.
To add insult to injury, Melky Cabrera added a third three-run homer later in the last of the eighth to run the score to 9-3. Many people will point to Miguel Gonzalez only going five innings plus in this game as the problem. While the Orioles have to find a way to get their starters deeper into games, Gonzalez wasn’t the problem last night. Until the tail end of his start, he was mowing Toronto hitters down. The issue more than anything else was the Orioles not taking advantage of the opportunities in the game that they had, along with the bullpen allowing baserunners and homers.
The Orioles did get a bit of good news yesterday, when they announced that Manny Machado would go out on a rehab start beginning Friday night for the Frederick Keys. Machado will flip around between Frederick and Bowie (depending upon who’s playing closer to Baltimore) for a few days, and possibly even to triple-A Norfolk. They’re targeting early May (which is next week) as a possible call-up date back to the major leagues. The Orioles will try to avenge their game one loss this evening with Chris Tillman on the mound. He’ll be opposed by Dustin McGowan of Toronto.
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