Bullpen lets sweep slip out of Baltimore Orioles’ hands


Bud Norris throws in the fourth inning of Monday’s game against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium. Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The glass-half-full folks out there will say the Baltimore Orioles are 3-3 on this trip. Coming close to splitting the 10-game trip was a result plenty of smart people would have had no problem taking when this Western swing began, as difficult as the competition was. The baseball Gods apparently were not in a mood to let the Angels lose three straight at home.

Here’s a closer look at last night’s loss to the LA Angels of Anaheim, of California, of the U.S., of North America, of the Western Hemisphere.

The question of why Tommy Hunter was stretched out for most of the 8th inning, rather than have Brian Matusz come in to face Josh Hamilton, whom Matusz had struck out last Tuesday night, is legitimate. Hunter had been effective, and it may just have been bad luck that Jonathan Schoop got turned around when Hamilton blooped a pitch into the shift. Things started to unravel at that point.

Hunter surrendered the tie run, and Matusz was summoned with the bases loaded and walked in the go-ahead run. The MASN cameras cut to a shot of Darren O’Day warming in the bullpen, meaning he probably would have closed if the Orioles had tied or retaken the lead in the top of the 9th. Britton had been used four of the last five games. Working backward, under most circumstances Matusz would tend to pick up where Hunter leaves off, getting the other team’s tough lefthanded hitter, then O’Day would come in to set up, and he would either finish it off, or leave it for Britton if the Orioles led by three runs or fewer.

Executive Vice-President Dan Duquette has been reported to be shopping for late-inning relief help

In short, this game showed me why Executive Vice-President for Baseball Operations Dan Duquette has been reported to be shopping for late-inning relief help. Hunter and Matusz have above average track records recently and likely will do fine at other times, but predicaments such as tonight’s are not allowed to happen in September or October. Last night’s loss was the 100th game of the season. Sixty-two are left, and we’re moving into get-it-done time, if we’re not already there. The Jays and Yankees both won and shaved the O’s lead to three in the AL East.

Here’s where I become a glass-half-full person for exactly one sentence. Life could be a lot worse than leading the division by three games. But a team cannot unravel like this too often in the second half.

Monday’s victory, in which Adam Jones smacked two, 2-run homers, and Bud Norris gutted it out into the 7th, was a thing to behold. So was Tuesday night’s victory, in which Miguel Gonzalez was nothing short of sterling into the 8th, allowing the Angels two hits before Mike Trout‘s 2-run bomb chased him.

Seattle’s Safeco Field is the Orioles’ next stop. The good news is that Norris’ next scheduled start is Saturday, and that Jones usually clobbers the Mariners. And that it’s just as cool or cooler in Seattle as it was in Anaheim. Norris is from Northern California and thrives in cooler, drier weather. Jones, as everyone knows, is from San Diego, and on Monday’s MASN postgame show, he could not stop talking about how he misses that drier, West Coast weather.