Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Orioles: It is Time to Worry


The Baltimore Orioles lost their fourth straight game this afternoon by a score of 7-5 against the Tigers. This loss drops the Orioles’ overall record to 20-18. The O’s are currently in first place, but only by a game to the Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays who are all tied for second.

Today marked the twelfth straight game the Orioles have failed to score more than five runs in a single game. Also, in these past four games the Orioles have been outscored by a combined total of 20-9. Yes, I understand the Orioles are in first place and, yes it is still early in the season.

However, the whole “It’s still early” excuse has run its course. We are almost two full months into the season. These games where the Orioles have blown wins are starting to add up. Looking at the schedule there are six games that the Orioles should have won yet they came out on the losing end. Half of these games were in this past series with Detroit.

If September comes and the Orioles are three or four games out of securing a wild card spot, they will look back at these games and think about what could have been.

There are three big things the Orioles need to do and change if they want to stay competitive and remain in postseason contention for the remainder of the 2014 season.

Leaving Pitchers in Too Long

Buck Showalter has had this problem over the past two seasons from what I can see. The starting pitchers do a great job throughout the game and then the sixth, seventh or eighth inning comes and all fans can tell the particular pitcher is starting to lose both their stamina and control of their pitches. Prime example of this is Bud Norris from Monday’s game against the Tigers.

Norris was pitching a gem that night. He actually was pitching a perfect game going into the fourth inning. Despite giving up two runs in the fourth, the Orioles were still very much in this game going into top of the eighth only down by a single run. Instead of putting in a set-up man like Darren O’Day to pitch the eighth inning, he left in Norris.

A walk and a home run later, the score was 4-1 in favor of the Tigers and the Orioles were out of the game just like that.

Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Another good example of Showalter leaving in the starting pitchers for too long came last month in the Sunday night game against the Red Sox. Ubaldo Jimenez was on the mound and pitching his first good game of the year for Baltimore. The Orioles held a 5-0 lead on the Sox going into the bottom of the sixth inning.

After Jimenez gave up a single and walk to consecutive batters, Showalter should have realized Jimenez was self-destructing rapidly. Instead, he left the right-hander in the game and, on the third straight pitch high and inside, Jonny Gomes crushed one over the Green Monster for a three-run home run and allowed for the Sox to come right back in the game ending with Boston winning in walk-off fashion.

Showalter needs to have a better feel for his starting pitchers and take them out quicker when things start to go wrong and runners start getting on base.

The interesting thing about Showalter is that he leaves starting pitchers in for too long, yet he uses a multitude of relievers in any given game even if a certain reliever, such as Zach Britton, is throwing his good stuff that day.

The Closer

This headline speaks for itself. Orioles faithful knew this day would come. After narrowly escaping basically all of his save opportunities with a lucky catch to secure the save or the Baltimore bats bailing him out of a loss, Tommy Hunter finally picked up his first loss of the season after blowing a 1-0 lead in the ninth. Hunter does not fit the closer situation at all. Any person watching this pitcher throw in the ninth inning can tell you that. Opposing teams “lick their chops” when they see him coming out of the bullpen to pitch.

Hunter just cannot go in to the ninth and do what it takes to be a good closer. He has yet to pitch a “1,2,3″ inning this season in the

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

ninth in a save situation. I know Orioles fans did not like Jim Johnson last year because he blew some save opportunities, but at least with Johnson you knew he either had it or did not. Johnson was going to sit the opponents down in order or he would implode. With Hunter, he implodes when the first batter steps into the box every game.

I understand being a closer is harder than it seems, but Brian Matusz came into the ninth today and sat the Tigers down in order with a strikeout to his credit. Also, during the Orioles five game winning streak, O’Day came in the ninth and picked up the save against the Rays in the series finale.

This shows the Orioles have relievers who are fully capable of pitching in the ninth. Showalter just needs to come to terms with the fact Hunter is not a closer and there are more reliable choices in the bullpen to put in the ninth inning when the game is on the line.

Runs! Runs! Runs!

Another headline that speaks for itself. The Orioles are 24th in the Majors when it comes to scoring runs. Baltimore only averages 3.947 runs per game, while their opponent’s are averaging 4.342 runs per game. The Orioles cannot seem to get runners across the plate when it matters.

Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

It is interesting too because the runners who get on base are not getting on due to a bloop single with two outs. Players like Steve Clevenger and Nelson Cruz  are getting lead-off doubles and the rest of the team cannot produce hits to score them or even get sacrifice flies to advance the runners.

The Orioles had bases loaded with two outs in the eighth inning today against the Tigers and could not score a single runner. Last night, Cruz hit a lead-off double in the second inning and the team could not score him. And the night before, Clevenger hit a lead-off double to center in the seventh when the score was 2-1 Tigers, and the subsequent Orioles’ batters proceeded to fly out, ground out, and fly out in order to end the inning.

The Orioles need to take a step back, look at the drawing board and think, ” How can we improve?”  If they do not do anything and leave things the way they are now, I can see this team slipping back in their losing ways of the early 2000′s. Right now this team is playing .500 baseball at best. No Orioles fan, player, or executive should be happy with this.

The Orioles need to shake things up to get back to their winning ways because right now this team is not playing to its full potential.

 

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