Courtesy of Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Orioles "Cruz" to a split with Cleveland

Is the whole act of inserting “Cruz” instead of “cruise” getting old? Just checking. What we saw yesterday was a game in which the concept of the “Fighting Showalters” was typified. Most people now liberally use that term for a game in which the Orioles battled back and thus fought until the final out. Granted, that was the original meaning of the term. However while the Baltimore Orioles did trail early in yesterday’s game, they were also coming off of a 9-0 loss to the same Cleveland team one day prior. There was a chance that it stood to reason they might not have much pop.

That certainly appeared to be the case from the get go. Starter Miguel Gonzalez seemed to have a problem locating home plate umpire Alan Porter’s revolving strike zone. When he did, it seemed that Cleveland bats found the ball. Gonzalez loaded the bases with nobody down, and the Orioles and Gonzalez were forced to go into stay out of the big inning mode. Oriole-killer Lonnie Chisenhall gave Cleveland a 1-0 lead with a sac fly-RBI, and former Oriole-killer (from his NY days) Nick Swisher ran the score to 2-0 with a sac fly-RBI of his own.

So to his credit, Gonzalez did limit the damage. And in fact he managed to settle down after the first inning and turned in a decent outing. Gonzalez’s line: 6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 4 K. So after all the fuss in the first inning, Gonzalez ended up with a quality start. But the Fighting Showalters started to make their move in front of a big hometown crowd in the last of the third. With two down Nelson Cruz missiled  a double to center. The consistent Steve Pearce sent an RBI-single to left, and the Baltimore Orioles had cut the Cleveland lead to 2-1.

Two innings later Manny Machado led off the fifth with a deep shot towards the scoreboard in right field; the ball barely made it over, but bounced back into play – and was ruled a home run. When Cleveland manager Terry Francona didn’t challenge, the score stood tied at two. Later

in the inning Nelson Cruz sent a fly ball towards the bullpen area that started carrying a good bit. The ball barely cleared the wall, and the Orioles led 4-2.

Preston Guilmet, Brian Matusz, and Zach Britton combined to pitch three innings in relief, and gave up a base hit and a walk. This incarnation of the Baltimore Orioles seems to be somewhat similar to the 2012 team that went to the postseason in the sense that the bullpen closes the door. All of that however is contingent on the starting pitcher getting deep into the game; while the O’s would like to see seven innings out of their starters, they’ll take Gonzalez’s six innings from yesterday.

Should fans read into anything in regards to the bullpen doors swinging open in the ninth yesterday and Zach Britton emerging? Tough to say for sure, although this was Britton’s second save on the year. I don’t even think it’s worth mentioning or arguing about until Tommy Hunter comes off the DL and is ready to play again. That’s when the real question of who closes will come to be answered.

In that vain, keep in mind that the O’s can keep Hunter on a rehab assignment for 20 days or so. I’m not suggesting that they’ll do that, however if Showalter is seriously considering Zach Britton as the full time closer, perhaps they’ll keep Hunter down in the minors for a few extra days so as to get an extended look at Britton. I’m not saying that’s going to happen, but it’s an option. The fact is that DL stints and rehab assignments can be easily manipulated in MLB.

It’ll be interesting to see if Hunter is the closer when he returns from the DL.

The Orioles head to Milwaukee for a three-game set with the Brew Crew, starting this afternoon at 2 PM eastern time. Chris Tillman will take to the bump to open the Orioles’ rare visit to the state of Wisconsin. Milwaukee is a hot team right now, and should provide some stiff competition for the Birds. Furthermore the Orioles will of course have to surrender their DH this week given the fact that they’re in an NL park. Tillman will need to improve on his previous start in Pittsburgh in which he was chased in the second inning last week; as Tillman would be the first to admit, it’s all about fastball command. He’ll be opposed by Milwaukee’s Kyle Lohse.

On behalf of Birds Watcher and the Fansided Network, I want to take a moment to wish all Americans a Happy Memorial Day today. We should all take a moment or two to remember our current service members and of course our veterans today, and everyday. We’re able to watch baseball and so forth only because America has always answered the call in defending her freedom. This was true in 1814 during the Battle of Baltimore (when Francis Scott Key wrote our National Anthem), it was true during the Civil War, through two World Wars in the 20th century, as well as during the events that followed 9/11. We all owe a great debt of gratitude to our military, past and current. Thank you to all who have valiantly served a great and thankful nation.

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Tags: Baltimore Orioles Nelson Cruz

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