Courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Orioles: Another quality start loss


Wei-Yin Chen turned in the eighth consecutive quality start for the Baltimore Orioles in last night’s 5-4 loss in Tampa. Chen’s line: 6.2 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 3 K. However in eight quality starts the Birds have lost four of those games, which baffles the mind. I mean…that’s the kind of thing that’ll keep one up at night.

It probably speaks to the fact that the Orioles’ offense is fairly predictable. As an example, Chris Davis smoked – and I mean SMOKED - a ball towards right field in the top of the fourth last night. Tampa first baseman Sean Rodriguez simply reached out his arm and effortlessly snagged the ball out of the air. Spray charts on the Orioles must look so specific that teams are able to literally position their fielders in such specific places because they know that’s where the ball will go.

Tampa took an early lead when Yunel Escobar homered off of Chen in the first inning. However Chen also managed to limit the damage and got out of the inning in a fairly inexpensive manner. While Oriole bats had trouble, Chen also buckled down and held Tampa off the board after that. They took a 4-0 lead when Alex Hanigan scorched a two-run homer to left in the fourth, and suddenly the Orioles trailed 3-0.

However the Birds were able to get back into the game in the fifth. Nick Markakis led the inning off with a double, and following a Manny Machado fly out Adam Jones sent a big

blast over the wall in left field and the Orioles were within 3-2. You can position your fielders as pointedly as you’d like according to what the spray charts say, but if the guy hits the ball out of the ballpark it’s superfluous.

Interestingly enough, Tampa summoned former “would-be” Oriole Grant Balfour into the game in the eighth. Balfour allowed back-to-back singles to lead off the inning, and with one out Chris Davis drew a walk (after Balfour had left the game). Nelson Cruz then came up with the bases loaded and one out. He proceeded to hit a high Baltimore chop off the plate, and by the time it came down third baseman Evan Longoria had nowhere to go with with – allowing Nick Markakis to score.

However J.J. Hardy struck out, and pinch hitter Steve Pearce grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the inning. Pearce almost had at least a two-run double with a shot to left field, however the ball fell foul by about a foot-and-a-half. That would have been a huge play, as Tampa immediately took the lead back in the last of the inning when Sands netted a pinch-hit two-run homer following a Longoria walk – and Tampa led 5-3.

While in the aforementioned at-bat Pearce battled and so forth, that foul ball is indicative of the entire game for the Orioles – and perhaps indicative of the four quality starts that they’ve lost of late. The O’s are doing quite a few things right at the plate. However just not quite enough to get that big hit or that extra run. All things being the same (which I recognize is a tough sell), if that ball lands a foot-and-a-half to the right Sands’ homer ties the score at five. Again all things being the same, Delmon Young‘s ninth inning pinch-hit solo homer then gives the Birds a 6-5 lead. Instead, that home run only brought the O’s to within 5-4, which was the final score.

A lot of people will argue that the Orioles need to do this, that, or the other to improve themselves. I would submit that they need to work a bit on being more clutch in clutch situations. Pearce would have gotten them over the hump in a sense had his liner landed fair. The Orioles focus a lot on “quality at-bats,” and they had quite a few of them last night. There were several seven plus pitch at-bats on the Orioles’ side of things. But many of those at-bats also ended in outs. Granted it makes the pitcher work harder, but…would a three-pitch at-bat that nets a base hit not be better than a ten-pitch at-bat that nets an out?

The Orioles also received bad news yesterday that was not unexpected when they found out that Matt Wieters will need season-ending Tommy Johns surgery. The operation will take place at noon today, and Wieters’ recovery time is expected to be approximately nine months. So do the math…if all goes well, that would put Wieters back sometime in the middle of March next year. So I suspect that we’ll see the same “time charade” with Wieters that we saw this past offs season with Manny Machado in terms of when he’ll actually start getting into games and whether or not he’ll be ready for Opening Day.

Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter would not commit to Wieters being ready for Opening Day 2015, saying that he’s simply focusing on the nine months time frame.

The Orioles also confirmed that they signed former Oriole Clay Rapada to a minor league contract, and that he will report to triple-A Norfolk’s bullpen. The series continues tonight, as Miguel Gonzalez will be opposed by former Oriole Erik Bedard. The O’s will have to make a roster move prior to the game in order to activate Gonzalez from the DL, so it’ll be interesting to see who goes down. Could it possibly be a reliever and could a starter be headed to the bullpen? Time will tell.

 

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