Remember the saying in Bull Durham?...”Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.” I bring that up because the Orioles’ biggest problem from last night is not losing 7-2 to the Detroit Tigers in the first game of the second half. There’s another ballgame today folks, and with it comes another chance for the the Orioles to win. The issue is that starter Jason Hammel might be lost to injury for the time being. Hammel landed oddly on his right knee in the fourth inning, and was visibly uncomfortable on the mound when manager Buck Showalter came out.
Hammel is having an MRI this morning on the knee, so we should know more later today. However given the way that Hammel’s pitched thus far in 2012 with relation to the rest of the staff, this has the potential to be a huge problem. To make matters worse, the Birds don’t have an off day until August 2nd, so it’s not a situation where they can stagger guys since they won’t need a fifth starter. When he left the game Hammel had given up two runs, the result of a Brennan Boesch two-RBI double in the first inning. However Hammel had settled down a bit. One thing I noticed in the first inning is that he threw more off speed pitches, the net result of which was guys getting on base. After that first inning he made adjustments and went back to his four-seam fastball, with which he was striking guys out.
Nick Markakis made his return from the DL last night, and he was thrust into the lead off spot. Following a Wilson Betemit double in the third, Markakis sent a double of his own into center field scoring Betemit. The O’s looked like they were going to make a game of it at that point…until Hammel left with his injury. The key play of the game was a Johnny Peralta three-run homer that hit the base of the batters’ eye in left center (off of Luis Ayala). The Birds were able to push one more across in the last of the ninth when Adam Jones scored on a Wieters double, making the final score 7-2.
There are two keys to this game; it’s tough to win when your bullpen gives up five runs, and it’s tough to win when you can only score two runs. What’s that old line again…”more cowbell!” One of the Orioles’ strong points this year has been the bullpen, however last night that was not the case. In fairness it was Luis Ayala and Dana Eveland who gave up the runs, while the rest of the relievers kept Detroit at bay. Speaking of Detroit, let’s give them some credit as well. They have a high-powered offense with the likes of Peralta, Miguel Cabrera, and of course Prince Fielder.
There’s not much I can say about the Hammel situation that isn’t already in people’s minds. If Hammel has to go to the DL I suspect that either Tommy Hunter, Jake Arrieta, or Brian Matusz will probably be recalled from triple-A (just my take). However I would think this situation will make the Orioles hunt even more for starting pitching on the trade block. We’ve all heard the Zach Greinke rumors. However I might be more inclined to look now at what the Cubs have to offer. While Alfonso Soriano playing for the Orioles might be less than ideal, he wouldn’t be a bad guy to bat lead off; and the Orioles need a lead off hitter right now. If that would net them a quality starter as well and it’s not too expensive, I’d say go for it. That’s just my take, and I’d welcome other ideas in the comments section as well.
Please note that this afternoon is another special game in Birdland as the Orioles will unveil the third legends’ statue, this one of Jim Palmer. The ceremony starts at 2:15 PM, with the stadium gates opening at 2. Palmer of course has remained close to the club all these years, serving as a color analyst on MASN (and Comcast/HTS before it). Today’s game was supposed to be a normal 7 PM start, however it was changed to 4 PM because FOX television opted to pick it up. For what it’s worth, FOX’s pregame coverage starts with their studio show at 3:30 PM, and Kenny Albert and former Oriole Bill Ripken will be along at 4 PM with the call of the game from Camden Yards.
Wei-Yin Chen will make his first start of the second half after a bit of a lackluster finish to the first. However Chen has still been a good surprise for the Birds thus far, and he’ll look to get back on track today on Jim Palmer Day, and before a national audience. As I said Detroit has a pretty potent lineup, but they’ll also be facing a crafty lefty. The key remains the Oriole bats. If they can produce base runners and ultimately get them home, the Birds will have a chance to win today’s game. Those Oriole bats will have a tough task today with Max Scherzer on the mound, who’s 8-5 on the year (and 2-1 lifetime against the O’s). However he does have a 4.72 ERA, so he can be scored upon. And for the record, Jason Hammel’s potential injury has no effect on how many runs the Orioles score. If you can’t score runs, you can’t win games regardless of who’s pitching.
Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala