Baltimore Orioles’ comeback bid falls short


It goes without saying that if you aren’t losing big to begin with you don’t have to worry about a comeback bid. However as we all know, sports doesn’t always work that way. Admittedly, being down 5-0 wouldn’t have been the greatest comeback bid of all time, but it would have been decent – had the Baltimore Orioles been able to complete the comeback, that is.

Wei-Yin Chen seemed to struggle from the beginning of the game, and ended up turning in the shortest start of his career. Chen’s line: 3.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 2 K. I would submit that given the way he’s pitched his year and the way he’s come along in his career, that we can chalk this start up as an anomaly for Chen. As WBAL analyst and former Oriole Dave Johnson said on the radio post game show, some days as a starting pitcher you just don’t have it.

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In Chen’s case, he didn’t have his fastball command yesterday, however he also didn’t have command of his offspeed pitches. On the flip side, Tampa starter and former Oriole Erik Bedard seemed to have all of his pitches at his disposal. At this stage of his career, Bedard’s fastball tops out in the high 80’s – and it fooled Oriole bats all day.

Tampa set the tone for the day from the first at-bat of the game, when Desmond Jennings hit a solo homer to put the Birds in a 1-0 hole. Forsythe’s two-run homer an inning later gave Tampa a 3-0 lead, and Kiermaier’s two-run shot in the fourth gave Tampa their five runs on the day. Chen walked Jennings in the immediate aftermath of the home run, which brought Buck Showalter out of the dugout to relieve Chen of his duties for the day.

I’ll get the the Orioles’ bid for a comeback in a moment, but perhaps one of the big silver linings of the day was the fact that the Oriole bullpen was once again incredibly solid in not yielding a run.

Let’s be clear; you have to work games like this for your starting pitchers into the overall plan for the season because they’re going to happen.

The Orioles seem to have limited how often games like this one occur, which is why the bullpen has been so solid. And in cases when the ‘pen has been taxed, they’ve managed to temper that fact with a follow-up good outing by a starter which gives the bullpen the rest it needs. (As an example, the ‘pen was used heavily in game one on Friday, but Tillman pitched eight innings in the night cap.)

The Baltimore Orioles weren’t getting anything off of Bedard yesterday, and quite frankly it was a typical Tampa reason as to why that was. Under Joe Maddon they’ve always seemed to do things unconventionally. So here you have Bedard who doesn’t have as much juice on his fastball any longer; the O’s, being a free-swinging team of fastball-type hitters, end up getting fooled by the pitches because they’re expecting more juice.

Nick Markakis put the O’s on the scoreboard in the last of the sixth with a two-out solo home run to cut Tampa’s lead to 5-1. Two innings later Bedard finally started to tire, as J.J. Hardy led of the inning with a single which was followed up by Manny Machado‘s two-run homer. Suddenly the Birds were back in the game, and they had a bit of an inning going with two runs

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already in with nobody down.

Tampa summoned Grant Balfour from their bullpen in relief of Bedard; we all know the circumstances surrounding Balfour – so I’ll spare you the details. However Balfour was’t very effective in his outing, and he allowed Delmon Young to reach as a pinch hitter, and following Nick Marakis’ single the O’s had two outs and runners at first and second. After another Tampa pitching change (they brought in closer Jake McGee for a four-out save), Adam Jones‘ RBI-single brought the Orioles to within one at 5-4.

However Nelson Cruz flied out to end the inning, and the Orioles would have to score in the last of the ninth to avoid a loss. However they went quietly, and the game ended in a 5-4 loss. However you can take some very positive trends forward into this afternoon’s series finale. Tampa didn’t score after the fourth inning yesterday; granted that was due to the strong Orioles’ bullpen, but the Birds held them off the scoreboard. And of course the Orioles put four runs on the board in the second half of the game. Now on the downside, three of those four runs came off of homers – they’re still struggling to manufacture runs.

Miguel Gonzalez will get the start this afternoon in the series finale, and after yesterday the Birds desperately need a quality start to keep the bullpen fresh. This is just my opinion, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make a roster move for a fresh reliever after today’s game if Gonzalez can’t go deep. With Texas coming to town on Monday night, the Orioles would be in good shape to have a rested ‘pen. Gonzalez will be opposed by Tampa’s Alex Cobb.