You really have to tip your cap to Wei-Yin Chen last night. As has been hashed out here time after time, good pitching will almost always shut down good hitting. We saw that both from Chen as well as from Tampa starter Alex Cobb in last night’s game. Chen’s line: 6 IP, 0 R, 3 BB, 3 K. When Tampa hitters were able to reach, Chen was able to either strike someone out to end the inning or get the hitter to pop/ground out. Chen’s issue continues to be his pitch count however, as he was lifted after throwing 107 pitches over six innings. However that’s also due in part to the opponent; that’s just what Tampa does.
This game was scoreless going to the last of the eighth inning, as Ryan Webb came on in relief for the O’s. He allowed two runners to reach on base hits before Evan Meek was summoned from the bullpen in relief of Webb. Meek would load the bases with a walk, and then allow an RBI-single to Yuniel Escobar to give Tampa a 1-0 lead. Hanigan would come up later in the inning with the bags still juiced, and deliver a two-RBI-single. Tampa closer Jake McGee took to the hill in the ninth and sent the Birds down 1-2-3, snapping the Orioles’ three-game winning streak.
Obviously you can’t win them all, and nobody’s expecting that. But it’s tough to have a shot when you don’t score any runs. But again, good pitching will shut down good hitting most of the time. And keep in mind that the same is true on the flip side of the coin. Oriole pitching was great last night as well. That 3-0 score is not in any way indicative of how this game unfolded. Even after the O’s surrendered the runs, Joe Saunders was able to come in and close Tampa down in the inning to send the game to the ninth to give the O’s one last shot at tying the game.
With all of this said, there was one thing I found very interesting in this game. Buck Showalter indicated that there were a few relievers
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from which he wanted to stay away last night. The O’s of course had to use several relievers on Thursday against Cincinnati (although the bullpen wasn’t used on Wednesday night at all). You notice that Showalter went to the likes of Webb, Meek, and Saunders in the eighth inning last night as opposed to some of the usual suspects – O’Day, Hunter, and Miller.
Was Showalter punting the game in a sense? Not in the least so far as I know. However the fact that the Baltimore Orioles have such a wide lead in the AL East combined with the fact that they now have quite a few more relievers on the expanded roster gives the Birds a bit more flexibility. This is not to say that there was no faith in the likes of Webb and company, however it prevents the O’s from using their key relievers in a game that while important was far from a must-win.
I suspect that going into this afternoon’s game most of the bullpen would be available, so if in fact that’s the case Showalter may well have at the very least been willing to lose one minor battle to win the war.
There will be fans who don’t like that concept in the least, and I can understand that. However it’s really no different than running out of pinch hitters in a National League game and having to send a reliever up to bat. At the end of the day assuming that the Orioles win the AL East is it really going to matter who won this specific game? (Furthermore, odds are that O’Day, Hunter, and Miller would be on the post-season roster while Webb and Meek might not be. It pays to keep guys as fresh as possible.)
The series continues this afternoon in a game that’ll begin just after 1 PM – and nationally televised by FOX at that. Keving Gausman will get the start for the Orioles, and he’ll be opposed by Drew Smyly.