The Cleveland Indians came into Camden Yards last night as a struggling team, having lost five straight games and being swept in NY. They came away with a 7-2 win over a team in the Orioles, who are now struggling just as much as Cleveland was. The O’s turned into the Yin to Cleveland’s Yang. The Birds have also lost seven of their last nine games, with the two wins being 2-1 victories over Washington. There are two questions in my mind, one of which is a follow-up:
- Are the Orioles a cure-all? – Baseball isn’t a sport which relies on film quite as much as football, however teams watch tapes on their opponents. Are other teams looking at the Orioles and seeing a tough team with a lot of talent, but also with a lot of holes? Cleveland was struggling worse than the O’s coming into last night’s game, yet they took care of business very well. The last thing that any team wants to be is an elixir for the rest of the league. As an example, the Washington Nationals left Camden Yards and went to Coors Field in Denver. Their bats suddenly came to life, moreso the result of the thin air as opposed to Colorado’s pitching. However while Camden Yards is a hitter’s park, opposing teams seem to be teeing off on Oriole pitching which was once as sure as day.
- Are pitches or strategy being tipped? – Pitches aren’t tipped on purpose for sure. While I myself haven’t seen anything, I do have to question if something isn’t being subconsciously done to tip off the pitches or pitch location. This could be anything, perhaps even as simple as the opposing dugout seeing Wieters’ fingers underneath his legs when he puts the sign down. Furthermore, I’ve always felt that the Orioles were a team that had opponents feast in terms of stealing signs. I’m not calling anyone out specifically; while stealing signs is dirty, the responsibility to protect the signs as the are falls on the battery. The Orioles are also very predictable in the sense that opponents know they’re struggling and that they’re playing with a hand tied behind their backs due to injuries. Therefore they’re throwing pitches just out of the strike zone because they know the O’s will try to expand it (the zone). In short, I used to hate it when my father would say “patience is a virtue, son.” Oriole hitters might do well to take that advice.
As has been the case all season, the Orioles are relying on the long ball to score runs. The difference is that the long ball isn’t coming like it was before. MASN’s Jim Palmer (a halfway decent hitting pitcher in his own right) hit the nail on the head last night when he said that sometimes hitting so many home runs can get you into bad habbits. You eventually start swinging hard and that eventually racks up the strikeouts. As I said, patience is a virtue; if you cut down on your swing a bit, you might make better contact with the ball.
If there’s a silver lining from last night’s game, it’s that all of Cleveland’s seven runs came on homers. That means that Cleveland was unable to manufacture any runs either, and thus relied on the long ball. That also means that Oriole pitchers (especially Wei-Yin Chen) were up in the strike zone, however they couldn’t manage to drive runs home without hitting the ball over the fence. That’s of small consolation for the Orioles, who lost their third straight game. The Orioles were also only 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position, which has been a huge problem for quite some time…
…yet, runners on base could provide an opportunity for the O’s moving forward. They managed seven hits in last night’s game (along with a walk). I”ve said for the better part of a week that the hitting-for-average has to come back before you can start to score runs again. The good news is that the O’s are starting to get on base again. They just need to learn how to get those guys in. Again, this is where patience comes in. When runners get into scoring position the opponent knows that the O’s desperately want to get them in perhaps more so for psychological reasons than anything else. So the pitcher’s goal is to get the Orioles to swing away, thus expanding the zone. That has to change.
J.J. Hardy showed signs of coming out of his slump, going 2-for-4 with a two-run homer. Hopefully starting tonight the entire team will follow suit and break their drought of late. Jake Arrieta heads back to the bump for the second game of this series tonight. Since coming back from his brief bullpen demotion Arrieta has a 2.70 ERA, and has lasted at least six innings in each of his three starts (since the bullpen demotion). He’ll be opposed by Cleveland’s Derek Lowe, who hasn’t won a game since June 1st. He’s dropped five of his last six decisions. No better time than tonight for the Orioles to break out and liven up the bats before this losing streak gets too long!
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