Baltimore Orioles: Season on the brink


With last night’s 2-1 loss to Kansas City, the Baltimore Orioles now find themselves in a 3-0 hole in the American League Championship series. As if there was ever a margin for error to begin with, but now there’s literally no margin for error. The Orioles are now tasked with winning four games in a row or having to head home for the winter. Ultimately however, they still need to take one game at a time as they have all year.While only one team in history has come back from being down 3-0 in an LCS (Boston, 2004), we certainly have seen this Oriole team win four straight games this year.

Courtesy of John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

Wei-Yin Chen gave the Orioles everything he had last night, in what was probably their best starting performance of the 2014 post season. Chen’s line: 5.1 IP, 7 H 2 R, 1 BB, 4 K. Chen was tagged with the loss, but as has at times been the case all series Kansas City didn’t hit the ball particularly hard against him. Certainly earlier in the series Kansas City was hitting-for-power and so forth, but they’ve also shown the entire time the keen ability to dump silly bloopers and well-placed flairs in for base hits. From a defensive perspective, that’s what did the Orioles in last night.

The O’s also got an outstanding effort in relief from Kevin Gausman. While he did allow the winning run to ultimately score (and inherited runner, that is), Gausman shut down the Kansas City offense throughout the second half of the game last night, allowing nary a runner to reach base. Gausman perhaps showed some flashes of what the Orioles hope will be a great career for Gausman in the post season, by playing with nerves of steel in a pressure situation.

The O’s took a 1-0 lead in the second inning when Steve Pearce smacked a double into right center, followed by J.J. Hardy‘s RBI-double which scored him. I’m not a huge fan of saying that in such-and-such ballpark that would have been out and so forth, but Hardy’s shot definitely would have been out of Camden Yards. Pearce’s would have been close. However in Kansas City’s cavernous outfield, they both fell as doubles. And that’s why Kansas City plays the small ball game so well; the dimensions of their home park almost mandate it.

Chen was victimized by two bloop singles in the last of the fourth, one by Lorenzo Cain and one by Eric Hosmer. And as I hinted above, these were in effect freak bloopers that fell in. Many Orioles fans have hung on the fact that Kansas City doesn’t seem to be hitting the ball overly hard, and that their opponents seem to fall victim to freak things like that. And that’s all true. However frustrating as it might be to watch from the other side, that’s Kansas City’s game.

It’s potentially downright unfair that a team who specializes in NOT hitting the ball very far can somehow humble a team who can hit the ball a mile. But that’s how the ball bounces sometimes.

Following a Brett Butler walk, Alex Gordon grounded into a fielder’s choice to Pearce at first base which allowed Cain to score from third and tie the game. Again, had the ball been hit just a bit harder I think Pearce would have had an opporunity to nail the runner at home plate. But as is often the case in life, to the victors go the spoils – and Kansas City has not only gotten all of the breaks in this series, but they’ve also taken advantage of them.

Brett Butler’s sac fly-RBI in the sixth would score Jarrod Dyson, giving Kansas City a 2-1 lead. Kansas City pitching would retire the final 16 Oriole hitters to close out the game, putting the Birds in the aforementioned 3-0 hole. It would take a truly historic comeback for the Orioles to win this series – historic in that it’s only happened once. But the Birds themselves can’t allow themselves to think that way. They have to focus on winning today. If they allow their thoughts to seep into tomorrow or the next day, they won’t make it to either of those points.

And while it would take a historic effort, as I said above we’ve seen these Orioles win four straight games this season at various points. One could also argue that the law of averages says Kansas City has to lose at some point given that they’ve now won seven straight post season games. But if there’s one thing for which this opponent has no respect, it’s the law of averages.

With the Orioles facing the untimely end to their season, Miguel Gonzelez will take to the mound this afternoon in Kansas City. He’ll be opposed by Kansas City’s Jason Vargas, with game time being set for just after 4 PM. I would however expect Gonzalez to be on a short leash today, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see Chris Tillman coming into the game in relief if need be. It comes down to this afternoon, and it’s win or go home for the Orioles.