At the beginning of this west coast swing last week, I said that it would potentially be the most important stretch of the schedule this season for the Baltimore Orioles. Granted we still have three games to go before the Birds take back to the skies to return to Baltimore, however one would have no choice but to say that so far it’s been a success. With last night’s 4-0 win in the series opener in Seattle, the Orioles have won four out of seven games thus far on the west coast.
The interesting part is that the Orioles seem to be adapting to the opponent’s style of play in order to win the games. Certainly we know they can win a death match where the two teams attempt to bludgeon each other (AL East baseball), but since they’ve been out west they’ve seemingly been winning games by putting a few runs on the board and then shutting the opponent down as best they can.
Wei-Yin Chen pitched perhaps his best game of the season last night against a Seattle lineup that’s been pretty solid this year. Chen’s line: 8 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K. Buck Showalter allowed Chen to go well over 100 pitches, as he showed no real signs of tiring. So much for the guy who can’t get out of the sixth inning!
The Orioles scored all four runs effectively at the same time – in the third inning. After back-to-back singles by Ryan Flaherty and Caleb Joseph, the order flipped back around and Nick Marakis sent an RBI-single into right field which scored Flaherty and gave the Birds a 1-0 lead. It also put runners at the corners with nobody out, and Delmon Young coming to the plate.
Young jumped on the first pitch he saw and sent it over the left field wall at Safeco Field, giving the Orioles a 4-0 lead – which was the final score.
Buck Showalter rolled the dice by starting Young last night, who of course hasn’t seen much play time of late. Showalter’s a numbers guy in the sense that he looks at match ups and at what numbers someone has against a pitcher or hitter. Young was 2-for-5 lifetime with a homer and a double against Hisashi Iwakuma. In total last night, Young went 2-for-4 with the aforementioned homer and three RBI against Iwakuma. You do the math.
Obviously in a game like that whereby you score a few runs in a bunch it boils down to your pitching. After the four-run third inning, Chen allowed four base hits. With the game not being a save situation, Darren O’Day came out of the Orioles’ pen as opposed to Zach Britton to pitch the ninth, and he sent Seattle down in order to end the game.
Manny Machado was kept out of the lineup for the third straight game due to some back problems, and the Orioles aren’t saying much more than that. It’s unclear when Machado will be back in the lineup, however I suspect that if he’s out again tonight the questions will start to become more poignant. Steve Pearce was also out of the lineup for a second straight game, although there doesn’t appear to be any reason as to why. As I said, Buck Showalter plays matchups, and certainly last night the matchup was favorable with Delmon Young in the lineup.
One thing of note going into this evening’s game; Seattle yesterday traded for slugger Kendrys Morales from Minnesota. He’s expected to arrive in Seattle today and will presumably be in the lineup tonight. This probably affects the AL West more directly than it does the Orioles, but the Birds will be the first team to have to face him in a Seattle uniform.
Speaking of trades, the O’s made a minor one yesterday. They acquired infielder Jimmy Paredes from Kansas City for cash considerations; Paredes was immediately optioned to triple-A Norfolk. As you may remember, the Birds claimed him off of waivers from Miami back in February, and Kansas City selected (off of waivers) on the 17th. So he never actually appeared for the O’s, but he was “kind of” a member of the organization for two days. How this affects the big league club remains to be seen.
In another move of interest, Oakland designated former Oriole Jim Johnson for assignment yesterday afternoon. Johnson of course was traded to Oakland this past off season for infielder Jermile Weeks, who’s spent most of the season at triple-A Norfolk. So if nothing else it looks like the Orioles won the trade. In 38 appearances in Oakland this year. Johnson had a 6.92 ERA; and the criticism from the Oakland fans started almost immediately when he struggled in the first week of the season. Many people naturally wonder if the Orioles might bring him back now. My personal stance is that the ship has sailed on Jim Johnson and the O’s. However it would be a very low-risk move that would be cheap. And if it didn’t work out they could easily cut their losses and move on – but I still say I would pass.
Tonight the Orioles will get perhaps the biggest test of the road trip, as Kevin Gausman will head to the mound to face Felix Hernandez of Seattle. As I said, the road trip has been a success thus far, but tonight’s game will be a measuring stick for the Birds. If they can score some runs against Hernandez and continue to shut Seattle down…you get the idea.