What an odd week for the Baltimore Orioles. First, they follow up their consecutive wins in Houston by taking the first two in Arlington against the Rangers (lost series finale), and then lose two of three in a series of fireworks to the AL leading Oakland Athletics.
The week started off pleasantly with a series victory against the injury plagued Rangers. Nelson Cruz (21), Nick Markakis (5), Adam Jones (9) and Chris Davis (9) all homered and the Orioles combined to score 20 runs.
The kicker to all the runs was the continuation of inconsistent pitching. Ubaldo Jimenez’s (2-7, 5.01) start to begin the series, though effective in limiting runs (1 ER), was a disappointment in that he lasted just 5.2 innings. Bud Norris (4-5, 4.41) followed Jimenez’s short performance up with one of his own, lasting just 5 innings and giving up 5 earned runs. Finally, Chris Tillman (5-2, 5.20) lasted just 1 inning and gave up 5 earned runs.
Pitching struggles were overshadowed by strong offensive performances in the series, but the Orioles’ bats have proven to be inconsistent all season, so series victories with that kind of pitching is certainly a rarity.
Those struggles trickled into the weekend series against the A’s. The battle of the vowels saw the O’s and A’s tango in two benches clearing brawls sparked by questionable reactions by Manny Machado, poor baserunning choices, and both strong and weak pitching performances by Kevin Gausman (1-1, 4.91) and Jimenez.
In the opener, the benches cleared following an explosive response by Machado after being tagged by A’s third baseman Josh Donaldson. Machado was on his way to third base when Donaldson went to apply the tag. While trying to evade the tag, Donaldson applied the tag and Machado lost his balance and fell to the ground. On his way down, Machado threw his helmet and promptly got up to confront Donaldson. The benches cleared and the all eyes were on Machado for the rest of the series.
The Orioles lost a 3-2 lead in the eighth inning and were forced to go to extra innings. In the 10th inning, the Orioles missed a golden opportunity to win with runners on the corners and two outs with Davis batting, as Cruz was caught trying to steal home. A costly decision that took the bat out of one of the team’s best hitter’s hands. The Orioles would go on to lose in the 11 innings.
The middle game carried the only positives of the series, as Gausman delivered a strong pitching performance (7IP, 1ER) and the Orioles scored 6 runs in the victory. Gausman’s performance was especially huge when considering that Miguel Gonzalez (3-4, 4.17) was placed on the 15-day DL and that it saved the bullpen from being overworked prior to Sunday’s series finale.
After pitching two relatively easy innings in the finale, Jimenez started the third inning by walking the first three batters and giving up a grand slam to the fourth batter. He would only complete 2.1 innings, while giving up 6 runs on just 2 hits (5 BB).
Later in the game, with Oakland up 11-1 in the eighth inning, Machado responded to two pitches thrown inside near his knees by throwing his bat on the swing towards third base. The bat toss caused the benches to clear and the ejections of both Machado and pitcher Fernando Abad (1-2, 1.78).
Machado’s response to the tag and the inside pitches has caused many baseball fans (including Orioles fans) to question his maturity level. Though, Machado has maintained that the bat slipped, fans on message boards and the radio believe otherwise.
The Orioles went 3-3 last week and will enter this week 31-30 and sit 5.5 games behind the first place Toronto Blue Jays. Baltimore will look to shake off the series loss with a series victory over the Boston Red Sox (three games) and Toronto Blue Jays (four games) starting Monday at Camden Yards.
This week could really help or hurt the Orioles and their positioning in the playoff chase. Boston enters the series on a five-game-losing-streak and has played poorly for most of the season. This is not only an opportunity for the Orioles to get some wins, it is also an opportunity to push Boston further out of the picture.
The following series against the Blue Jays is the most important series the Orioles have seen this season. The Blue Jays currently sit 5.5 games in front of the Orioles. This four-game series could bring the Orioles right back into the divisional race, keep them exactly where they are right now, or push them out of the picture. Though it is only June, this series may wind up being the point of the year that makes or breaks the Orioles’ season.
Monday (7:05 P.M. ET): Jake Peavy 1-3, 4.72) v.s. Bud Norris (4-5, 4.41)
Tuesday (7:05 P.M. ET): Brandon Workman (0-0, 3.74) v.s Chris Tillman (5-2, 5.20)