Baltimore Orioles: Tough to out-pitch Tampa


For all intents and purposes, it was a normal Friday night home game for the Baltimore Orioles. The Birds took batting practice first before relinquishing the cage to the visiting Tampa Rays, they wore their alternate black jerseys and white pants, they hit last in the inning, and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” blared during the 7th inning stretch. But normalcy isn’t a term that should be used often this weekend, as the home standing O’s were hosting Tampa…at Tropicana Field.

It’s seemingly a world gone mad, however given the circumstances in Baltimore this week the venue of a game and who’s the home team should be the least of anyone’s concern. Even still, it was just plain bizarre seeing the scene unfold last night at the Trop. And quite honestly, Tampa did a great job of pulling it off. And as I’ve said previously, once Tampa covers their costs for the games, the Orioles are collecting all profits.

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As for the game itself between the lines, the good news for the Orioles is that Chris Tillman seemed to get himself back on track after a couple of rocky starts. Tillman’s line: 7 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 7 K. The problem of course was that the Orioles didn’t put up any runs behind Tillman, which makes it tough to win. In fact that makes it impossible.

Ironically, both teams each put up four hits. However Tampa took advantage of their hits a bit more so than did the Orioles, and they also took advantage of a walk. Nothing good ever happens after a walk, right? Astrubal Cabrera drew a walk off of Tillman in the top of the fourth with two outs. The Orioles then went into a fairly harsh outfield shift against Evan Longoria, who unfortunately made them pay. He smacked the ball into the left field corner with the left fielder De Aza playing towards center. That allowed Cabrera to score from first, and the Orioles trailed. James Loney’s subsequent RBI-single scored Longoria, and closed out the scoring for the evening.

The fact that Tampa starter Alex Colume was throwing darts didn’t help the O’s, although Colume (who was making his first start of the year and was obviously on a pitch count) only pitched five innings. However Tampa’s bullpen was just as effective in shutting the Orioles down. Incidentally, the Orioles’ bullpen was as well.

Courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Obviously that walk in the fourth inning is what hurt Tillman and the Orioles, however it’s worth noting that itwas also a two-out walk. One almost wonders if teams don’t inadvertently let their guard down just a bit once two outs in the inning is achieved. Nevertheless, the Orioles had an announced “home” crowd of 9,945 people at the game last night, which isn’t really too poor of a showing given how abruptly the game was scheduled.

The entire series is general admission, and a $3 discount for each game is also being granted for Orioles’ spring season ticket holders in Sarasota. And while the majority of the fans in the stands were rooting for the “visitors,” there was a decent contingent of Orioles fans clad in orange behind the third base dugout and down the line towards the bullpen. That might be the one thing that remained constant in this “world gone mad;” Tampa kept their home clubhouse, dugout, and bullpen (on the first base side), while the O’s camped out in the normal visiting team digs.

Not to mention that the Tropicana Field PA announcer gave a “generic” approach to the game, with no emphasis whatsoever on the Tampa players, and even referring to them as “the visiting Tampa Rays.” Buck Showalter downplayed all of this after the game in speaking with Roch Kubatko of MASNsports, saying in essence that the game’s the same regardless of the venue:

"I know it seems strange to everybody, but once the game starts they’re doing something they’ve been doing their whole lives – playing baseball. It’s still a place where good pitching plays and that was the case tonight."

Unfortunately for the Birds, Tampa’s used to winning games by scores similar to 2-0. So perhaps while the O’s were the home team, Tampa’s attitude was “our field, our rules.” If you want to beat Tampa you have to get to their pitching – which can be challenging at times.

Miguel Gonzalez gets the start tonight in game two of the series, and he’ll be opposed by Tampa’s Chris Archer – and his .84 ERA. Tough task for Oriole bats that were silent last night. Game time is set for just after 7 PM.

Next: Baltimore Orioles vs. Tampa Bay Rays: Live Stream, Start Time, TV Info and More 5/1/15