Orioles overcome odds and circumstances


I’m going to toe a tough line here and call out the umpiring in today’s Orioles/Angels’ series finale. As a general rule of thumb writers such as myself are kind of supposed to stray away from this kind of controversy. However the strike zone that was employed by home plate umpire Angel Campos this afternoon was “interesting” to say the least. Players on both sides were seemingly looking back for an explanation from the home plate ump the entire game. Nick Markakis, who’s normally fairly reserved, seemed to be a regular victim of Campos’ zone, which never seemed to be fully explainable.

At one point in the 7th inning manager Buck Showalter came out to protect Markakis and ended up getting tossed. (That might be an understatement; I think Showalter probably went out there in order to earn his first ejection of the season.) This is a trend that I’ve noticed throughout the big leagues through the first two weeks plus of the season. My point has always been that the strike zone is what it is; I recognize that some umpires lean more towards pitchers, and some lean more towards hitters. The thing is that you have to be consistent in how you’re calling the game. Most umpires have been everything but thus far. This is something that MLB really needs to look at because there’s no question that it’s affecting games.

Personally I think that this was Wei-Yin Chen’s best outing in his young Oriole career. Chen’s line: 6.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 5 K. Chen was able to consistently reach back and find the pitch that he needed throughout his time in the game. Unfortunately the Orioles couldn’t put any runs on the board for him to get him a win that he most certainly deserved. With L.A. leading 1-0 in the seventh Nick Markakis appeared to have had enough of Angel Campos’ strike zone, which summoned manager Buck Showalter to the field. Showalter was ejected for arguing balls and strikes (as is stated above), and got his money’s worth on getting the heave-ho. One has to wonder if Showalter won’t spend much of tomorrow’s day off on the telephone with MLB officials voicing his concerns about the strike zone…

…while Showalter’s ejection was of no use to Chen, it did seem to energize the Orioles. Markakis seemingly got his revenge on the circumstances at hand by coming through in the clutch (there’s that word again)…twice. After Matt Wieters pinch hit for Ronnie Paulino in the top of the eighth (and recorded a hit) and Robert Andino followed with another single, the O’s loaded the bases. Wieters was thrown out at the plate on a fielder’s choice, which kept them loaded for Markakis. When Markakis sent a single into left field the O’s plated two to take a 2-1 lead. However unfortunately the game wasn’t over. Howie Kendrick homered off of Pedro Strop to knot the game at two in the last ofthe inning.

The O’s really showed a perfect example of how the whole Moneyball concept is supposed to work today. In the top of the 10th Robert Andino got aboard with a single; on two straight sacrifices he ended up at third base, which brought Nick Markakis to the plate. Markakis hit an infield single which plated Andino, giving the O’s a 3-2 lead, and further avenging Markakis’ strike zone issues. In the last of the inning Jim Johnson allowed a runner to get to third, however he was stranded there as the Orioles won the series finale.

This was a huge win for the Birds because it gave them a win at the conclusion of a pretty decent road trip. If you told most fans that they’d end up 6-4 at the end of a 10-game swing, they’d take that. With a three-game set with AL East rival Toronto upcoming at home, the Orioles are feeling pretty good right now. However MLB really needs to do something about the umpiring issues. It’s unfair for a team to see pitches consistently out of the strike zone only to find out that they’re being called strikes. If professional athletes are held to a standard of par, umpires should be as well. Furthermore, coaches and players give interviews afterwards and are asked to attest to what they did during the game. Umpires aren’t required to speak to the media, and if they’re criticized at all it seems that the player/coach is disciplined for his comments. Most teams and most fans just ask that the calls be consistent, and that hasn’t been the case thus far in games across the league as it seems that the strike zones have come apart from behind the seams.

Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala