Be it cliche or not, all sports are games of inches. Perhaps this is most evident in football where you need ten yards to get a first down. However baseball is a game of inches also, and often times if you’re off by one inch you’re going to get beat. That can be taken literally or figuratively, but you get the idea. The Baltimore Orioles fell in game one of three to Oakland last night, 4-3 in 11 innings. Orioles fans can take solace in the fact that they battled with one of the best teams in baseball, however there’s little solace in losing.
Wei-Yin Chen started out a bit rocky – or did he? Certainly you don’t want to give up solo home runs, but if you’re going to give up homers it’s best to do it with nobody on base. Josh Donaldson smacked one out in the first inning, and Derek Norris followed suit in the second. That put the O’s in a 2-0 hole, but other than that Chen managed to shut Oakland down. Chen’s line: 6.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 4 K. Chen’s a fly ball pitcher who pitches-to-contact. So in that sense the two homers, zero walks, and only four strikeouts aren’t surprising.
This game wasn’t without it’s drama, however. Adam Jones grounded into a fielder’s choice t
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o end the third, and Oakland third baseman Josh Donaldson tagged Manny Machado out between second and third. However Machado took exception to what he deemed an overly hard tag, which admittedly sent him sprawling onto his backside. As he fell Machado slammed his helmet into the infield grass, and immediately got up and confronted Donaldson.
Both benches and bullpens emptied, however order was quickly restored. My personal opinion was that while Donaldson did seem to go out of his way (and out of the base line) to tag Machado, the tag itself did not appear to be overly harsh. Ultimately, Wei-Yin Chen pitched Donaldson inside once and then hit him later in the at-bat later in the game – more to come, I suppose.
Jonathan Schoop’s RBI-single in the second inning brought the O’s to within 2-1, and Chris Davis tied the score at two in the fourth with a solo homer. Speaking of Manny Machado, he put the Birds in the drivers seat an inning later with a solo home run of his own. This of course followed a gold glove play at the hot corner in which Machado gunned down Derek Norris at first base in the fourth inning. Do we think that the incident with Donaldson didn’t somehow fire Machado up?!
With the Baltimore Orioles still leading 3-2, Darren O’Day walked Coco Crisp to lead off the eighth.
“Nothing good ever happens after a walk.” – Rick Dempsey
Following a stolen base, Crisp would score to tie the game at three on a Cespedes RBI-double. J.J. Hardy would commit his fourth error in two days in the 11th, putting runners at the corners for Oakland. John Jaso scored on a Vogt RBI-single to left field, which ended up winning the game for Oakland.
It’s a game of inches; if not for that Hardy error perhaps Oakland ends up with runners at first and second and Jaso can’t score on that single. Maybe he scores anyways; we have no way of knowing. If Chen doesn’t miss his mark on one of those two home run pitches by an inch or so, maybe the ball doesn’t leave the ballpark. Again, we have no way of knowing.
Perhaps the most bizzare play of the night came with two outs in the last of the tenth; the O’s had Cruz at third and Adam Jones at second – with Chris Davis at the plate. On a two-strike count, Cruz was tagged out trying to steal home. Again, game of inches…right? A lot of folks had a problem with the attempted steal in that it takes the bat out of Davis’ hands. However keep in mind that lady luck often smiles on daring ones. If nothing else, the Orioles are a pretty conventional team. Yet they play in an age where it seems that the unconventional is what’s winning games. In that situation the last thing anyone would have expected would have been an attempted steal of home plate.
Most second-guessing is done in all things based on results. So if Cruz is safe at home (ending the game), nobody’s going to say why in the world would he do that? Here’s another thing; Josh Donaldson appeared to be giving Cruz one heck of a lead at third base. If anything, Cruz might have been able to get down the line further before he actually broke. While it does appear that the decision to steal was Cruz’s, that’s something that’s somewhat opaque at the moment. So let’s say that the steal sign was put on from the bench – did Oakland pick off that sign by chance?
The series continues tonight in a game that will be televised by FOX at 7:15. The Birds had to send starter Miguel Gonzalez to the DL yesterday with soreness, so Kevin Gausman joined the team yesterday and will be activated to make tonight’s start. He’ll be opposed by Oakland’s Sonny Black.
The Orioles also announced yesterday that Johan Santana’s season is over. In what was to be his final extended-spring game (before being assigned to an affiliate for rehab), Santana tore his achilles tendon fielding a ball off the pitchers mound in Sarasota. Tough break for a guy that was hoping to make a comeback.