At this point I have to wonder if the Baltimore Orioles aren’t trying to disprove just about everything I’ve said and that I know about baseball. I’m not sure how many times I’ve written it starts with pitching. That’s far from an insightful piece of baseball knowledge, and in fact it’s basically common knowledge for anyone that’s around the game on a daily basis. Yet last night Miguel Gonzalez posted a quality start. In truth, he took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. However at the end all that matters I suppose is the bottom line…
…and unfortunately that bottom line has Gonzalez on the losing end of a pitcher’s duel. Gonzalez’s line: 6.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 4 K. Far from shabby if you ask me, and I suspect that Buck Showalter and the Orioles’ offense would say the same.
Gonzalez: “He deserved a much better fate.” Many people criticized Showalter’s decision to send Gonzalez out in the seventh inning; the fact is that his pitch count was not high. That’s how it works with pitchers – sometimes in later innings they just lose it, no matter how good they were before.
The Orioles took an early 1-0 lead in the second inning when Adam Jones doubled and was singled home by J.J. Hardy. And that lead stood up for some time. As Showalter also said after the game, Houston got a great quality start out of their pitcher as well. While it sounds redundant, the O’s seem to have a knack for running into good pitching.
However Adam Jones said it best after the game in that opposing teams are getting the clutch hits, and the Baltimore Orioles are not. Teams go through these types of stretches throughout the season, which is why we constantly hear the cliche it’s a long season. However, frustration will often start to build on a team when you’re constantly seeing balls drop in and clutch hits coming off of opposing bats.
Jose Altuve recorded Houston’s first hit of the game on an infield single to short in the sixth. And again, that really illustrates the type of stretch the Orioles are in. It’s not always the hard hit balls or the deep shots that are undoing the O’s, it’s the simple things in the game. Dominguez would lead off the seventh with a double, and he would be doubled home to tie the game by Grossman. Villar would then add an RBI-double of his own, and in a span of a few minutes the O’s suddenly trailed 2-1.
The Birds would put two runners on in the eighth, however Steve Pearce would fly out to left field to end the threat. Again, that illustrates how things are going for this team right now. Pearce hit the ball pretty well, but yet if it was just a little softer the game probably would have been tied. Adam Jones tried to bunt his way on base in the ninth, however the bunt went right up in the air and was caught.
Chris Davis struck out to end the game, on a pitch that looked to be potentially borderline at best. The pitch was very high, and in my personal view it missed the strike zone. Davis and Buck Showalter share that thought – especially Showalter, who was not happy with the call at all.
So the O’s now find themselves at one game under .500 for the first time since the beginning of the season. This is not a hole out of which they can’t fight, and anyone with an inch of baseball savoir faire knows that every team will find themselves in a stretch like this at one point or another. Unfortunately for the Orioles, their bad stretch came at a time when a team in their division (Toronto) was winning nine straight games. While Toronto is now actually in a modest two-game losing streak, Jose Bautista last night threw out a runner at first base from right field (after what would normally have been a standard single) – for the second consecutive game. That’s how things go for you when you’re riding high.
The Orioles will try to end this losing streak this afternoon in a game that will be started by Chris Tillman, who’s had a few poor outings in a row now. Does that trend continue, or does the law of averages at some point kick in and grant Tillman – and Oriole bats – a positive outing? We’ll find out this afternoon; Tillman will be opposed by Dallas Keuchel.