Baltimore Orioles: Maybe it doesn’t begin and end with pitching


Fans have long seen me say that it all begins and ends with starting pitching. Circumstances being what they are of late for the Baltimore Orioles, I might have to re-think that. Their last three losses have been what I would term “hard-luck losses,” as they had starters pitch great games that were lost late. In two of those three losses (including last night’s 6-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim), the starter pitched a quality start.

Ubaldo Jimenez was about as good as good can be last night. Jimenez’s line: 7 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 6 K. For Jimenez, it was his first outing since September of 2013 in which he didn’t issue a walk. Jimenez was dealing all night, and it very closely resembled the start vs. Toronto in the first week of the season in my opinion. However it goes in the loss column, due to circumstances that were far beyong Jimenez’s control. 

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Steve Pearce seemingly broke out of his slump in this game, and he opened the scoring in the last of the fourth with a solo homer. That run seemed to stand up for the Orioles, to the point that they were counting the number of outs they neeed before Anaheim could put one or more runs on the board. However Anaheim put two runners on in the seventh inning – by way of two very softly hit infield singles, one to third and one to second.

After Jimenez recorded two outs, Chris Iannetta sent an RBI-single to left field, which tied the game at one. Marc Kraus would follow with an RBI-single of his own to left, and suddenly the O’s trailed 2-1. This reminded me a lot of the ALCS last year vs. Kansas City. In the last of the seventh it appeared that Steve Pearce might have tied the game when he walloped a ball to left field – only to have it get caught up in the air and fall short.

You have that, and then you have Anaheim getting two runners aboard on slightly-hit infield singles – which ended up costing the Orioles (and Jimenez) the

Courtesy of Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

game. I draw the reference to the ALCS because in that case you have the Orioles relying on power which never materialized, and Kansas City relying on broken bat and seeing-eye singles. Normally power wins out, but on the off chance it doesn’t it’s really ugly.

But you also have to credit Anaheim starter Matt Shoemaker, who kept the Orioles off the board, save for the Pearce home run. So perhaps it does begin and end with starting pitching. To that point, several Orioles were not happy with home plate umpire Adam Hamari’s strike zone. At one point Adam Jones questioned a borderline check swing, and after grounding out he turned back around and glared in towards Hamari. Buck Showalter seemed to indicate after the game that Anaheim was taking advantage of the wide zone, and that Oriole hitters simply couldn’t adjust (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko of MASNsports):

"We knew exactly what he was going to try to tonight and he was able to do it. Takes advantage of an inch here or there off the plate and so did we."

Mike Trout and David Frees would homer in the eighth and ninth innings respectively, and Collin Cowgill would score on a wild pitch in the ninth inning as well. Trout would later come up and single off of Manny Machado‘s glove to score the final run in the Orioles’ 6-1 loss. Again, just to show how fine the line between winning and losing can be, Trout’s home run was barely fair. He hit it the opposite way, and it looked to be hooking foul; you almost had to see the replay to back up the fact that it left the ballpark. Combine that with the two infield singles, and the Orioles just aren’t getting the bounces right now.

So the O’s now need to win this afternoon to avoid being swept at home. And that task just got a lot tougher last night, as the Orioles had to scratch Chris Tillman due to back stiffness. Tillman is hoping to start Tuesday vs. Seattle, but it’s unclear whether or not that will be the case.

So the Orioles will tap Mike Wright, recently called up as a bullpen hand from Norfolk, to make the start this afternoon in the series finale against Anaheim. Wright will be making his major league debut, and he’s also being tabbed to be a stopper of sorts for the O’s today. The good news for the Birds is that this should be an all hands on deck type of game for the bullpen, given the fact that you have a guy making his big league debut, and that tomorrow’s an off day.

Wright will be opposed by Anaheim’s Garrett Richards. Game time is set for just after 1:30 PM this afternoon.

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