Baltimore Orioles unable to complete the sweet at the Trop


I’m a believer in the law of averages, and that will generally tell you that it’s statistically difficult to sweep a team in a three or four-game series. That law of averages worked in Tampa’s favor last night, as the Batimore Orioles fell to their first loss of 2015. Miguel Gonzalez labored, labored again, and then labored even more in the first inning – and yet managed to make it much deeper into the game than any of us thought he would. Gonzalez’s line: 5.2 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 5 BB, 5 K.

Those numbers are a bit deceiving, because Gonzalez really had to work to record outs. He had runners at the corners in the first inning, but managed to pitch out of it – with a little help from Buck Showalter. Gonzalez appeared to induce a double-play with one out, however Desmond Jennings was called safe at first base and a run scored. It appeared to me that Jennings was out to begin with, and replays backed that up – so the call was overturned and we remained scoreless. (Whether it’s been the Orioles or the opponent asking for the challenge, no instant replay review has gone against the Birds thus far.)

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Despite a nearly 30-pitch first inning, Gonzalez managed to hang around until running into some trouble in the sixth inning. After recording two outs he walked two hitters, and Showalter inserted Brian Matusz. After a wild pitch and a walk the bases were loaded, and Matusz proceeded to walk in the first run of the game when he gave a free pass to Logan Forsythe. Desmond Jennings would add an RBI-single for an insurance run in the eighth inning. The fact is that the Orioles couldn’t ever really get anything going, and they fell to their first loss of the season by the score of 2-0.

The run that was walked in by Brian Matusz was of course charged to Miguel Gonzalez, who took the loss. In fairness to Matusz, I was of the opinion that he made some quality pitches, and at least twice he could have had a called strike three (including on the Forsythe at-bat). However home plate umpire Paul Nauert was giving hitters the black of the plate all night on close pitches. Later in the game a couple of Tampa relievers tried to nibble on the corners as well, and to his credit Nauert called those pitches balls. And while many of Mantusz’s pitches looked good, Nauert was consistent all game long. And consistencey is the mark of a solid umpire.

Courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

We also saw the major league debut of Jason Garcia, whom the Orioles picked in the Rule 5 draft this past winter. Garcia was solid, pitching one inning and giving up one walk. It had to be a special moment for Garcia, who grew up about 45 minutes from Tropicana Field. He had quite a few family and friends on hand for the game last night, in front of whom he made his big league debut. Talk about a storybook beginning!

The O’s are off today, however they’ll have a light workout at Camden Yards later this afternoon. And when I say a “light workout” I basically mean that the players will report to the clubhouse, get their lockers set up, get situated, and probably head home. Keep in mind that many of these guys have been down in Florida since the beginning of February working out, a point that Buck Showalter drove home to Rock Kubatko of MASNsports after last night’s game:

"Oh God, I don’t care if it’s snowing, raining or sleeting, I’m in. I feel like we’ve been gone for a long time. We have."

If you read Kubatko’s article (which I linked above), you’ll also notice that the O’s had issues with the bullpen phones over the course of the series. At some point someone was sent to a hardware store to purchase walkie-talkies. I highly doubt that Showalter was suggesting that Tampa was claiming some sort of additional home field advantage (things happen with technology). But I would say that perhaps MLB should adopt the NFL’s rule in that if the telephones in one dugout/bullpen are down, neither team can use them. In fairness, at a park like the Trop the manager could just send someone down the line to the bullpen to tell a reliever to get warm. But at most parks where the ‘pens are now in the outfield, that would be more challenging.

There’s a question about the weather for Friday’s home opener. Unfortunately the Orioles have been mum thus far on any backup plans. We’ll just have to wait and see. Based on the forecasts, it doesn’t look like a washout by any means. But if you don’t have tickets to tomorrow’s game and you’re looking to come out to the yard at some point this weekend when Toronto’s in town, Saturday and Sunday are looking beautiful!

Next: Baltimore Orioles hold on to win