You never want to criticize umpires for doing their jobs, especially if in their minds they’re doing their jobs properly. But while it’s actually allowed under the rules, I might draw the line at having to go to an instant replay review for the sake of figuring out what the count is. Tampa starter Alex Cobb was already intent on taking as much time as he wanted in between pitches, making…the…game…go…as…slow…as…possible. But yeah, then that happened.
Wei-Yin Chen was fairly solid for the Baltimore Orioles (while he was in the game), and he even pitched out of a major jam in the first inning to set the tone for the game. Chen’s line: 4.2 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 0 K. As you can see, the issue was that Chen couldn’t go deep into the game. 91 pitches over 4.2 innings isn’t going to get the job done. However I will say that we might start seeing outings like this out of starters as we progress through September. As the games start to mean more and more, Showalter’s likely to have a shorter leash on his starters.
Tampa had two runners in scoring position with nobody down early, putting Chen in an early hole. However Forsythe grounded out to Chris Davis at third, and as he started to make the throw across the diamond Davis checked the runner (Desmond Jennings) back to third base. However as the throw was being made Jennings broke for home, and was gunned down by Steve Pearce from first base. Tampa manager Joe Maddon talked the umpiring crew into a crew chief review of the play, and eventually the call was upheld (more on that later). Tampa would in fact net a run in that sequence however, as Evan Longoria would notch an RBI-single.
For a game that was 1-0 for some time, as I said above it sure felt like it moved at a snail’s pace. Tampa often beats to the tune of their own drum, not worrying about things such as time. Alex Cobb in effect refused to be rushed, and for a period of time that seemed to catch Oriole hitters off guard. Then the whole sequence where Markakis thought he had walked and the umpires had to review the count was borderline ridiculous.
But Cobb’s delay tactics were rendered ineffective in the fourth. With two runners in scoring position Caleb Joseph delivered a two-RBI double and the O’s took a 2-1 lead. However Tampa’s “anything you can do I can do better” attitude popped up again an inning later, when Longoria delivered an RBI-double to tie the game at two. But the O’s seemingly have Tampa’s number this year; they used three hits against would-be Oriole Grant Balfour in the sixth to take the lead – off of Jonathan Schoop‘s eventual RBI-single. Joseph would add another RBI-single in the seventh to run the lead to the eventual final, 4-2.
I joke about the pace of the game, however those types of games are going to happen every now and then. If you sprinkle a few two hour games in there these things generally even out. The biggest issue I had was with the review of the play at the plate in the first inning. The rule is that a manager can argue a call, but eventually the umpire is supposed to ask him to challenge it. Joe Maddon obviously didn’t want to burn his challenge on that play, which told me that he wasn’t totally confident that he would win it. However he was allowed to chastise the umpiring crew for the better part of a minute or so, in effect begging them to go to a booth review. Eventually they opted to do just that, and after about three minutes they ruled that the runner was still safe.
Whether the runner was safe or the play was inconclusive is another story. However if a manager feels that strongly about a play that he’s going to argue for that long, he needs to slap his challenge down. Instead, Maddon was allowed to go on and on and eventually he argued his way into having the crew “decide on their own” to review the play. And that’s something I’ve seen the past couple of months across the board; managers aren’t having to burn their challenges as often. Instead they can argue their way into what the NFL calls a booth review. That’s not how the system was designed.
The Orioles are guaranteed of at least a series split after taking the first two games with Tampa. Game three of this series will be tonight at Camden Yards, with Kevin Gausman on the bump for the O’s. He’ll be opposed by Tampa’s Drew Smyly. With New York’s loss to Detroit, the Orioles added on a game to their AL East lead, which is now back up to seven.