Did the Orioles lose more than just a game and another series?


Following last night’s 8-6 loss in Toronto, manager Buck Showalter told MASN’s Gary Thorne that right fielder Nick Markakis might have injured a wrist while swinging the bat. Anyone that watched the game probably knows the at-bat to which Showalter is referring; in the 9th inning Markakis took a big cut at a breaking ball and immediately stepped out of the box. You could visibly see that he was uncomfortable. Markakis did finish the at-bat, and lined out to center (which was followed up by an Adam Jones two-run homer, his second home run of the game).

The Orioles of course are no stranger to roster moves this year, and they’re hoping that they don’t have to make another one involving one of their key players. Markakis was examined by team doctors after the game last night, and Showalter said that he’d wait to see how Markakis was when he reported to Rogers Centre this afternoon before worrying about what they might have to do. However needless to say, losing a player like Nick Markakis for an elongated period of time (even a 15-day DL stint) would be a big blow to a team that’s started to struggle a bit in the past few games.

Contrary to the opinions of some people, Jake Arrieta wasn’t horrible last night. Let’s say that he was better than Tommy Hunter was the night before to say the least. However Arrieta only threw 4.1 innings, giving up seven runs (six earned) over six hits, walking three and striking out five. His fastballs were getting hammered…however his curve ball was deadly. Arrieta’s started to throw a classic 12-to-6 (or perhaps even an 11-to-5) curve ball, which has frozen hitters for the better part of the season. Toronto hitters were no exception last night. You could almost see the look of “hey, no fair!” in their eyes when he’d throw it. Unfortunately he didn’t throw enough of them, and as I said his fastballs were getting hit far…

…which brings up another point. Home plate umpire Doug Eddings caught the ire of the Orioles all night. In no way am I suggesting that he was favoring one side over the other, or that he was trying to spite the Orioles. I do in fact feel that most umpires (and game officials in all sports) are fair-minded and truly do try to do a professional job. However I think that the Orioles’ perception of Eddings last night was that he was out in left field watching the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, or something along those lines. It appeared that Arrieta was being forced to throw his pitches directly over the plate, and as I said those pitches were getting hammered. However Toronto starter Ricky Romero seemed to be living on the inside and outside black, and he was granted those fringe strike calls. MASN’s pitch track showed that many of Romero’s pitches were in fact strikes, however again I think that the Orioles’ frustration stemmed from the fact that they felt Arrieta wasn’t getting the same courtesy of using the black of the plate.

The situation with Eddings boiled over in the 5th inning when Raja Davis singled home Brett Lawrie after Arrieta appeared to have caught Davis looking on the inside corner. Matt Wieters started questioning Eddings’ strike zone – something rarely done by a catcher either at bat or behind the dish – and he was promptly granted his first career ejection. Manager Buck Showalter continued the argument with Eddings, however Ronnie Paulino had to come in and catch the rest of the game. If you’re wondering what my opinion was of the strike zone, I suppose you can look at my twitter timeline during last night’s game, however for the purposes of this column (in which I try to be as objective as I can) let’s just say that it’s telling that in the 8th and 9th innings the Toronto pitchers were complaining about not having balls out of the zone called as strikes.

The big bright spot for the Orioles last night was reliever Miguel Gonzalez, who made his big league debut after being called up from Norfolk. Gonzalez pitched 3.1 innings, gave up four hits, a run, and struck out  five. Similar to Dana Eveland the previous night, Gonzalez also ate up some innings after a starter had failed to go deep into the game. That’s a heck of a way to make your big league debut. After giving away Saturday’s game against Kansas City, the Oriole bullpen has seemingly become stable again so to speak. It’s not something that’s being noticed since they’ve lost a few games in a row, however the ‘pen has been solid again the past few games. The O’s didn’t give up even being down 8-2, and Adam Jones’ homer in the ninth brought the Orioles to within 8-6. However Toronto closed out the game for the win, giving the Orioles their fourth consecutive series lost.

Regardless of the umpiring crew or anything else, Jake Arrieta was ineffective. I’m not sure that the Orioles need to consider sending him to the minors, however he does need to get his act together. More importantly, they need for Jason Hammel to be the stopper tonight in Toronto so that they can avoid being swept. Hammel has been effective in games of late, however it’s been his endurance that’s been a problem. The good news is that Showalter’s used very few relievers in the first two games, and instead opted to stretch one guy out. So the ‘pen is fairly rested if Hammel only pitches five or six innings (which would be a huge boost for the Birds). He’ll be opposed by Toronto’s Brandon Morrow, who didn’t make it out of the first inning of his last start in Texas. Note to Oriole hitters tonight: don’t swing at the first pitch.

Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala