I would submit that for most of yesterday’s game Kansas City was a step ahead of the Baltimore Orioles. I know what you’re thinking in the wake of a 9-3 loss - thank you, Captain Obvious. However let’s look at the very beginning of the game as an example; lead off hitter Norichika Aoki had bunted, singled in the infield, and stolen bases for most of the weekend. So the Orioles played the outfield fairly shallow; what does Aoki do? He lines a deep shot to left center, that was uncharacteristically dropped by center fielder Adam Jones (a three-base error). Now keep in mind – everyone in the park will say that’s a play Jones has to make, including Jones. But had the outfield been at normal depth, that turns into an easy play. Aoki (who would score on Omar Infante‘s RBi-groundout) saw that, and swung away.
Starter Miguel Gonzalez gave the Baltimore Orioles another one of those good enough to keep the team in the game type of starts. He could have been sharper at times, however he without a doubt pitched well enough to win. Gonzalez’s line: 6 IP, 6 H, 4 R (3 earned), 1 BB, 4 K. The Aoki run of course was unearned due to the Jones error, which means that Gonzalez actually qualified for the all-important quality start (pitched six inning and gave up only three earned runs). On the other side of the plate, the Orioles were facing “Big Game” James Shields, who certainly lived up to his nickname with how he mowed down Oriole batters. In the first six innings, the Orioles only managed one hit – an infield pop up that was misplayed by Shields and third baseman Mike Moustakas.
Infante, who would end up with a career-high six RBI, would plate a run with an RBI-groundout in the third inning and the O’s trailed 2-0. He would also tack on a two-RBI double in the fifth to put the O’s deeper into the hole. However in the last of the sixth the Orioles showed a slight sgin
of coming to life. Nelson Cruz continued his hot season with a two-run homer, cutting Kansas City’s lead to 4-2. For a split second, it appeared that perhaps Shields was tiring, or that perhaps the Orioles were coming around. But unfortunately for the Baltimore Orioles and their fans, that wasn’t the case – at least on this day, that is.
As I said, Kansas City just somehow seemed to be a step ahead of the Orioles yesterday. With Aoki on first in the seventh, Infante haunted the Orioles once again with a two-run homer. Here’s the key; Aoki went to steal second base on a 1-1 count, and reliever Evan Meek threw a fastball. Of course that fastball traveled a long way after hitting Infante’s bat, so in a sense the Orioles all but walked into an ambush. Alex Gordon would add a two-RBI double to run the lead to 8-2, and Mike Moustakas would double home Gordon again in the ninth to push it to 9-3. (The Orioles had a shot to get out of that seventh inning, however Nick Markakis‘ errant throw to try and nab a runner in a rundown kept things going. Not much one can say given that Markakis isn’t playing his natural position at first base.)
The Birds were able to get one back in the last of the ninth when Nick Markakis scored from third base on a wild pitch. With all of this said, one cannot deny that this is not the lineup that was envisioned at the beginning of camp back in March. Obviously the Orioles have been without Machado, at times they’ve been without J.J. Hardy, and now they’re without Chris Davis. But all of that aside, they’re still a club that wants to win games by out slugging people. And Kansas City knew that, so perhaps the greatest example of them being a step ahead of the O’s is that they simply let the O’s beat themselves at the plate.
Speaking of Machado, I would say that there’s a better-than-good chance that he’ll be called up in anticipation of Tuesday’s series opener with Pittsburgh. With an off day tomorrow the O’s would be able to run him out with either Frederick or Norfolk (if they wanted to) once more, and then call him up for Tuesday’s game. The Birds still have to make a corresponding roster move after DLing Chris Davis (which was officially done today, but retroactive to yesterday). Davis is eligible to come off the DL on May 11th, however Buck Showalter is skeptical that he’ll be able to play by then.
Speaking of roster moves, the O’s will probably have to make another one on Wednesday with Troy Patton‘s PED suspension coming to a close. Might someone like Evan Meek be sent down to the minors, or perhaps Josh Stinson? Incidentally, there could be a very real chance that the O’s won’t see action again until Friday night in Minneapolis. With tomorrow’s off day the O’s are slated to play Pittsburgh at home on Tuesday and Wednesday – it’s also slated to rain…and rain, and rain. As we know, the league often looks for windows of opportunity to get games in during inclement weather, especially in cases like this in which the teams don’t play again in the given city. (The Orioles will travel to Pittsburgh later in the season however.) According to the forecast, things might be clearing up by Thursday, an off day for both teams. If the games are rained out, might the O’s consider playing the entire series on Thursday as part of a doubleheader?