The Baltimore Orioles had their struggles against teams like Kansas City in the 2014 regular season – small ball teams that is. This is not to say that they never beat them, but they just seemed to offer challenges with which the O’s had difficulties at times. So it might stand to reason that if the two sides switched roles, perhaps the Birds would have had better success. Not to be, as the newly annointed home run kings (Kansas City) defeated the double-steal executing Orioles 8-6 in game one of the ALCS.
First off some historical context; the last two times the O’s appeared in the ALCS (1996 & ’97), they split the first two games. So while they did in fact lose both of those series, a win today puts them right in line. And ultimately the series wasn’t lost on game one. Furthermore, it’s also worth remembering that the O’s lost game one of the 1983 World Series to Philadelphia (at Memorial Stadium none the less); we all know how that turned out in the end.
Chris Tillman wasn’t the Tillman we knew throughout most of his truncated outing last night. Tillman’s line: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 2 BB, 3 K. While he retired the side in the first two innings, he ran into trouble in the third. Alex Escobar hit a one-out solo homer to give Kansas City the lead, and after Tillman loaded the bases Alex Gordon’s three-run triple cleared the bases and expaned that lead to 4-0. However the O’s started to battle back in the last of the inning as Adam Jones’ RBI-single scored Nick Markakis (following a lead off double) to cut the lead to 4-1.
With Kansas City leading 5-1 in the fifth, the O’s started to come back for real. Nelson Cruz stroked an RBI-double, and Ryan Flaherty’s two-RBI-single scored Cruz and Adam Jones to cut the lead to 5-4. An inning later we saw the Orioles, the team who swiped the fewest bags
Courtesy of Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
in the league this year, properly execute a double-steal to geet two runners into scoring position. Jonathan Schoop was at second and Markakis at first with nobody down, and Alejandro De Aza was at the plate trying to sacrifice them into scoring position. In trying to take the out that the Orioles were trying to give them, Kansas City forgot about the base runners. So when both runners took off, they were caught off guard. Furthermore, catcher Salvador Perez’s throw hit Schoop on the base paths, meaning both runners were safe.
De Aza would lift a soft pop up that went about 70 feet from home plate and dropped amid Kansas City’s infield confusion. That allowed Schoop to score from first and tie the game. With the game still tied in the last of the ninth, Buck Showalter went to closer Zach Britton, who similar to Tillman wasn’t the Zach Britton we were used to seeing. Britton loaded the bases before recording an out, including two walks on four consecutive pitches. However he also induceed Eric Hosmer to send a ground ball to Steve Pearce at first, who fired to home plate to nail the runner (the throw was low, but Nick Hundley dug it out just in time).
Britton was lifted after that, and Darren O’Day induced an inning-ending double-play by Bret Butler.
However as Buck Showalter pointed out after the game, it’s also fair to point out that Britton didn’t surrender any runs.
O’Day came back out for the tenth, and was rudely greeted by an Alex Gordon homer that gave Kansas City the lead. Later in the inning with one runner on Brian Matusz would be summoned out of the bullpen, and he promptly served one up to Mike Moustakas to give Kansas City an 8-5 lead.
So as I said above, the home run-smacking Kansas City team defeated an Oriole squad that was pretty nifty on the base paths. But the Birds did try to make a game of it in the last of the tenth. Delmon Young continued his string of post season pinch-hit appearances and sent an RBI-single to center. The winning run came to the plate in the form of Nick Markakis, however he grounded out to end the game and the Birds fell 8-6 in game one of the ALCS.
Going down 0-1 is a lot less detrimental in a long seven game series than it is in a short five game series. So the Orioles don’t find themselves in a similar position as Detroit last week after losing to the Birds in game one. The Orioles played good baseball last night for the most part, but they ran into a team that played just a bit better. And yes, for once it was the Orioles’ pen that seemed to blink first. There are a lot of things that could be said as to why that was (rain, long game, etc), but it’s probably better to just say they got beat. That’s part of why these LCS’ are series’ instead of just one game.
My personal opinion was that this series was going to go at least six or seven games, so Orioles fans shouldn’t fret about dropping one – so long as the O’s are able to bounce back this afternoon. They’ll have ALDS game three’s warrior, Bud Norris, on the mound. He’ll be faced by Kansas City’s Jordano Ventura, who dominated the Orioles this year with a 1.26 ERA. However they did beat him once, and his ERA has gone north of three since the all-star break. Game time is set for just after 4 PM.