With yesterday’s 5-0 loss to Boston, the Baltimore Orioles dropped two-of-three to their division rivals over the weekend at Camden Yards. There are a couple of different ways to look at this, although few of them provide any good news for the Birds. The silver lining might well be that the O’s won’t play a team with a record of .500 or higher until next weekend when they head to San Francisco. Therefore in theory the schedule will bring the Orioles a bit of a respite from some of the tougher opponents who are now behind them for the time being. However the Birds still have to go out and win the games, and in fact they’ve struggled against sub-.500 teams this season.
Jason Hammel continued his streak of not winning a game since May 27th in Washington. Hammel was behind hitters literally from the first pitch, however as former Oriole Dave Johnson pointed out after the game on “Wall-to-Wall Baseball” on WBAL, Hammel didn’t get much help during the early parts of the game. Hammel was down in the strike zone early, and he simply wasn’t getting the called strikes when he needed them. Instead, Boston starter Jon Lester appeared to get several borderline strike calls, which came at the frustration of Buck Showalter and the Orioles.
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However you have to overcome even the worst calls if you’re going to win. While what we saw yesterday was far from the worst calls ever, Hammel was unable to overcome them. Hammel’s line: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 5 BB, 3 K. With Boston already leading 1-0 in the third, David Ortiz hit an opposite field home run to left and suddenly Boston led 3-0. Ultimately when you can’t muster any runs, you can’t win the game. Hammel was far from on his game, but he didn’t necessarily put his team in a bad position either. The real story of this game was that Oriole bats couldn’t come through in the clutch. Anytime that the Orioles got a few runners on base, Lester would find a way out of it. And in fairness, “sometimes you just have to tip your cap” (as Buck Showalter likes to say). Lester was about as on his game as one can be, and he shut the potent Orioles’ offense down.
With two runners in scoring position in the eighth the Orioles opted to intentionally walk pinch hitter Johnny Gomes, bringing Jared Saltalamacchia to the plate. He was able to hit successfully against the shift, and his RBI-single closed out the scoring in Boston’s 5-0 victory. The loss dropped the Orioles to 58-48, and they currently sit in third place in the AL East (five games out of first). However, they still hold onto the final wild card spot, and if the season ended right now they’d head to Tampa for the AL Wild Card game.
The Birds will have today off before the Houston Astros come to town for a three-game set, their inaugural series at Camden Yards as part of the American League. The day off comes at a good time for the Orioles, so as they’ll have the chance to put the Boston series out of their mind. It’ll also be interesting to see what happens on two fronts this week in major league baseball. First off, the Orioles are being tied to several players on the trade market, namely Michael Young of Philadelphia, Jake Peavy of the ChiSox, and perhaps even Michael Cuddyer of Minnesota. So will the Orioles team that takes the field on Tuesday night be the same roster that we’ve seen to this point?
It’s pointless to talk about what the Orioles are going to do at this point, because we’re in crunch time with regard to the deadline (4 PM this Wednesday). However the Orioles might also be keeping half an eye on the biogenesis suspensions that might be coming down this week. (I would hope that the league would announce any suspensions prior to Wednesday’s trade deadline so as to prevent a team trading for a guy that ultimately gets suspended.) Who might be getting a 50-game suspension this week, and how might it affect the Orioles? Obviously if any Oriole players themselves are suspended that affects the team directly (Danny Valencia’s name was on the original list prior to the season). However so far as we know there weren’t any Orioles that have been implicated in the scandal. So is it possible that a player for a team with whom the Orioles are competing for a playoff spot could be affected? (I’m not including Alex Rodriguez’s name in that discussion because he’s been out all season anyways, and his absence from New York wouldn’t negatively affect them in terms of abruptly losing someone.)
The next 48 hours are sure to be interesting around baseball to say the least. Speaking for myself, if I were the Orioles I’d be looking more at pitching than I would hitting. Make no mistake about the fact that the Birds are probably claiming to be “in” on various guys so as to drive the price up for a team such as Boston or Texas, however I’d be more interested in Peavy than Cuddyer or Young. Time will tell; enjoy the off day!