I’m reminded of an old Abbot & Costello routine where they’re shooting dice; Costello, pretending not to know how to play the game, says “so sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose!” (What, did you expect me to quote Mother Goose?!) That’s how it works in baseball as well, as the Orioles dropped game two of a three-game set to Kansas City 4-3 at the yard. However the key play in this game was one of those fluky plays which kind of makes you scratch your head. With one out in the 7th Eric Hosmer sent a swinging bunt tight down the third base line. Third baseman Wilson Betemit did the right thing in that he allowed the ball to roll foul. However it never quite made it into foul territory, and Hosmer ended up at second base in the process.
Humberto Quintero followed with an RBI-double to tie the game, and Hosmer again burned the O’s in the 8th with an RBI-single which put Kansas City ahead for good. I noticed a lot of chatter on twitter among other places where people were complaining about Betemit allowing Hosmer to get to second on a swinging bunt. I have to agree with former Oriole Dave Johnson, who said after the game (on WBAL’s Wall-to-Wall Baseball program) that Betemit had played it right. Corner infielders are taught to let a ball like that roll foul. I think that’s a very important point to make because most people are going to assume it was a bum play on Betemit’s part simply because the guy ended up at second base. In a perfect world Betemit would have either picked up the ball (keeping Hosmer at first base), or that ball would have rolled foul. The fact that neither happened is simply a freak play.
Early on in the game Wei-Yin Chen was fighting himself more so than Kansas City. His fastball didn’t appear to be overly effective, so he went to his breaking pitches…which were less effective than his fastball. This is the same trap that he fell into last week in Washington. However the difference this time around was that he was able to get back to his fastball, which got more effective as he went along. Chen’s final line: 6 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 5 K. Those numbers are obviously good enough for Chen to have won the game, especially seeing that he left the game with a 3-2 lead. The one thing that does concern me is that this was Chen’s second start in a row that was under fairly warm conditions, and he had his struggles both times. Oriole fans will remember that former Japanese League pitcher Koji Uehara had similar issues with hot weather. That could be a problem given how hot the Baltimore summer can get. However the good news is that the final four innings of Chen’s outing were strong for the most part. He did give up a homer to Billy Butler which made it into the visitors’ bullpen, however as I said he left with the lead.
The O’s got solo home runs from Chris Davis and J.J. Hardy. Adam Jones also tripled to center, and was plated on Matt Wieters’ sac fly. That right there is a good sign in that they were able to manufacture a run without the long ball. After Jones scored, the Birds had trouble getting guys on base, much less getting them home. Kansas City’s stater (Paulino) and their bullpen shut the Birds down. While that’s concerning from the Orioles’ standpoint, you also have to give Kansas City a little bit of credit. However the swinging bunt-double in the 7th was still the key play, and for the first time in recent memory the Orioles’ bullpen was unable to hold the lead. Darren O’Day gave up the swinging bunt, but obviously he deserved a better fate than having to be on the hook for that run. However Pedro Strop gave up the go-ahead run in the 8th, and took the loss.
This sets up a rubber match this afternoon between the two teams at the yard, with Brian Matusz heading to the bump for the Orioles. Matusz of course has been pitching very well of late, and he’s won his last three consecutive starts. He’ll be opposed by Luke Hochevar, who’s ERA is 6.61 (although it’s down from 9.00 three starts ago). I’ll be interested to see if Buck Showalter uses an altered “Sunday lineup” given that yesterday was a (late) day game, the Orioles had an off day Thursday (after an early afternoon game Wednesday), and they’ll have another off day this coming Thursday. Today’s game is pretty big for the Birds given that following the game they’ll depart on a nine-game road trip exclusively in the AL East (Toronto, Tampa, and Boston). Translated: don’t lose this game and this series today.
Adam Jones contract update: During the course of yesterday’s game word quickly spread around the yard that Adam Jones had officially agreed to a contract extension with the Orioles prior to the game. According to Roch Kubatko of MASN, the deal is for six years, $85.5 million (and a $2 million signing bonus). One thing I found interesting is that $75,000 of Jones’ salary will go to Orioles’ charities, which I feel is a great thing. Since he’s arrived in town back in 2007 Jones has been very active in the community, and has done a lot for charity. The guy’s a keeper both on and off the field, and I have a feeling that there are a few other teams that are disappointed today in seeing Jones stay with the O’s. He’s made a huge commitment to this franchise and to the city of Baltimore by signing a new deal, and that’s something that should not be soon forgotten. A press conference has been called for 11:30 AM this morning to “officially announce” the contract, and will be televised live on MASN.
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