The Baltimore Orioles were able to sweep a doubleheader from the LA Dodgers on Saturday, however they couldn’t close out the deal yesterday as they dropped the series finale 7-4. There are a couple of different ways to look at this, however first and foremost you never want to lose. Having said that, Los Angeles came into yesterday’s game having lost six straight (of course including two to the Orioles). So at some point they were due for a win. Ultimately as Tom Davis and Dave Johnson said on WBAL’s Wall to Wall Baseball postgame show yesterday, you aren’t going to win every game.
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The starting pitching again was an issue yesterday, as Jake Arrieta was lifted after pitching four innings. As Buck Showalter walked to the mound, I thought for sure that after the game we’d be hearing that Arrieta was going to triple-A. With the bullpen a bit taxed after yesterday’s doubleheader, it stood to reason to me that Showalter might leave Arrieta in the game even if he was struggling a bit. Arrieta was not sent down immediately following the game, however that could still happen. The Orioles will need to make a roster move prior to Wednesday afternoon’s game against Toronto to call up another starter (unless they want to use someone out of the pen), so there’s still a chance that Arrieta might be a part of that roster move. That aside, Arrieta breezed through the first two innings. Perhaps most importantly he minimized the number of pitches he threw, which boded well for the Oriole bullpen. However he issued a walk in the third which later came into score, and the wheels came off in the fifth. He issued two more walks, hit a batter, and then was lifted after Mark Ellis singled two of those men home. Once T.J. McFarland came in and the dust settled, the Orioles’ 4-1 lead had turned into a 5-4 deficet.
Los Angeles was supposed to start Chad Billingsley against the Orioles, however he was placed on the 15-day DL due to elbow discomfort. LA recalled Stephen Fife from triple-A to make the start, and the Orioles hit him hard out of the shoot. With runners at first and second in the last of the first Nick Markakis’ RBI-single scored Nate McLouth and the O’s were off to an early lead. Adam Jones was hit by a pitch and Chris Davis singled, and following a Matt Wieters strikeout J.J. Hardy drove in two runs with a two-RBI single. Adam Jones took the first pitch he saw in the last of the third and smacked it over the left field wall following Los Angeles getting a run back in the top of the inning, and the Orioles led 4-1.
Fife only pitched 4.2 innings himself, and while LA had lost six straight it is worth mentioning that they have a pretty decent bullpen. Their bullpen was also a bit more rested than that of the Orioles coming out of yesterday’s doubleheader, which is part of the reason that the O’s were shut down in the second part of yesterday’s game. As for Jake Arrieta, everyone (including Arrieta) agrees that his stuff is too good for him to come across as inconsistent as he has. Again, he mowed batters down in the first two innings, and even after giving up the one run in the third he was still able to post a decent inning in the fourth. However when things do come undone as they did in the top of the fifth yesterday, they unravel very quickly. As I said previously, the Orioles will presumably be making a roster move at some point prior to Wednesday’s game. If Arrieta going to triple-A isn’t the corresponding move, that means that he’ll be getting at least one more start. I suspect that Buck Showalter and Dan Duquette have a plan in mind already, and that it will be revealed in due course. (For the record, the reason they need to make a roster move is due to the fact that they had a rain out on Friday, and Jason Hammel would be pitching on four days rest if he took his normal turn in the rotation.)
The Orioles return to AL East play tonight at the yard as Toronto comes to town for a three-game set. Chris Tillman gets the nod for the O’s, against J.A. Happ for Toronto. Both pitchers are looking to lower their ERA’s and to go deeper into games. I would submit that these three games against Toronto are important for the Orioles in terms of the bullpen, as immediately following Wednesday afternoon’s game the Birds will fly to Oakland for a four-game series. It’s bad enough that they’re going to the west coast without a day off (hidden shot at MLB’s schedule makers in there somewhere), but if the bullpen has been over-used in the immediate games prior to going out there it makes things much worse.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Orioles had a crowd of 26K+ for the first game of the doubleheader on Saturday, a 46K+ sellout Saturday night, and 41K+ yesterday afternoon. The first game on Saturday looks kind of like the weak link there, however keep in mind that the game was supposed to be on Friday night, and many fans probably had to exchange their tickets for other games if they couldn’t make it on Saturday. People claim they’d rather not see interleague play, however league-wide it seems that the numbers indicate attendance is up for these series’. And why not…how often do the fans of Baltimore get to see Dodger Blue? This was only the third time in history they’ve been here, and the first time was in the 1966 World Series! I’ve long been a proponent of interleague play, as I feel it gives the fans a chance to see teams they otherwise wouldn’t.