Baltimore Orioles: Keep the ball down


Starter Bud Norris struggled in keeping the ball low in the strike zone from the beginning of last night’s game. And I would submit that with the all-star break up and coming it might have behooved the Baltimore Orioles to send Norris on a bit of an elongated rehab assignment. But I’ll touch on that later.

As Buck Showalter said after the game, Norris paid for the mistakes he made.

It might be a tough sell to argue that Norris wasn’t ready to start this game, but to say he was rusty might be fair. Norris’ line: 4 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 2 K.

I was a bit surprised to see the O’s lift Norris when they did, however given that he was coming

Courtesy of Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

off the DL I suspect they wanted to ensure he didn’t overwork himself. Showalter had also made a few veiled references to potentially keeping Norris fresh in case he was needed in Sunday night’s game against New York (presumably in a relief role).

Washington came out with the idea of getting on base and getting runners in. As I said, Norris was high in the zone from the beginning, and lead off man Denard Span worked the count to 3-1 before grounding out. Anthony Rendon took advantage of the situation and stroked a double, and was then doubled home himself by Jayson Werth. Adam LaRoche would add an RBI-single, and the Orioles trailed 2-0. However the Orioles would put a run across in the last of the inning after Steve Pearce and Nelson Cruz walked, followed by Chris Davis‘ RBI-single.

The best news coming out of last night’s game could be that Davis’ bat is starting to come alive again. He went 2-for-4 on the night with an RBI. It’s tough to say what breaks guys out of slumps; was it hitting that clutch home run on Monday night? Was it the impromptu day off on Tuesday? Again, tough to say. However if Davis can start hitting and eventually hitting-for-power again, the Orioles will be in an even better spot than they are now.

Washington catcher Wilson Ramos would homer in the second, and shortstop Ian Desmond would add one in the fourth (both solo shots). Again, this is what happens when you’re having trouble keeping the ball down. And from Bud Norris’ perspective, these types of games will happen – especially when you’re coming off the DL and haven’t pitched in a few weeks. Certainly he wasn’t happy with the start, and the Baltimore Orioles as a team wishes it went better. However it’s just something mechanically that he needs to work on to get back to where he was before the injury.

Manny Machado stroked a homer of his own in the last of the fourth to bring the O’s to within 4-2, however Washington would re-take that three-run lead an inning later on Adam LaRoche’s sac fly-RBI. Jayson Werth would add a solo homer in the seventh, and Washington would take game one of this short series 6-2. On a positive note for the Birds, they only used two relievers in Brad Brach and Brian Matusz. In Matusz’s case, he retired every batter he faced and struck out two.

As I said above, I think it might have behooved the Orioles to send Bud Norris out on a rehab assignment. Granted his injury was a groin strain and had nothing to do with his pitching arm, however the fact is he still hadn’t been in a live game since June 21st. Pitchers can go out on rehab assignments for up to 30 days. So given that the rotation was a bit backlogged as it was, and given that the all-star break is coming up, why not send Norris out on a rehab assignment in the minor leagues so he can get himself back up to speed? He probably could have been given a couple of starts to keep him on his pitching schedule and then activated when his turn would come up in the rotation.

This is all hindsight for sure, and it’s tough to say if this was ever even considered. On the flip side, the O’s are “in the grind” right now in terms of the standings, and the urgency to win today has to be the top priority. This short home series with Washington concludes tonight at Camden Yards with Wei-Yin Chen on the mound for the O’s. He’ll be opposed by Washington’s Gio Gonzalez.