Baltimore Orioles fall in frustrating Miami finale

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The Baltimore Orioles completed what might be one of the most frustrating series’ in recent memory with a 5-2 loss yesterday at the hands of Miami. The Birds weren’t able to muster a hit until the sixth inning, and seemed lost all day at the plate – against what many would call the worst team in the majors. Now the snarkiest of folks out there would probably respond with how can Miami be the “worst team in the majors” if they beat the Orioles two-out-of-three? As I’ve said many times, you can’t follow baseball the way you do football – it’ll leave you sick. But the overall win/loss numbers tell the tale of the season, both for Miami and the Orioles.

The overall body of work indicates that they’re the worst team in the majors. But anyone can beat anyone else at any time. That’s one of the oldest rules in sports. There were a lot of questions that came out of this game and this series – and not limited to just how long will Brian Matusz be suspended? Whether or not Chris Davis can or should stay in the middle of the lineup will have to be addressed at some point in the near future unless things change, although Davis did net a double yesterday.

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Courtesy of Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Miguel Gonzalez provided a rare clunker of a start for the Orioles, struggling with fastball command all afternoon. Gonzalez’s line: 4 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 3 BB, 2 K. It’s fair to mention that several of the hits that led to eventual runs were in fact infield hits over which Gonzalez had little control. Miami took an early 1-0 lead on a fielder’s choice-RBI by Hechavarria in the second inning. An inning later Miami put two runners on with two infield grounders to second base. Martin Prado grounded out to first base once the bases were loaded, and Miami led 2-0.

Marcell Ozuna would add an RBI-single and Martin Prado a solo homer in the fourth and fifth inning respectively, giving Miami a 5-0 lead. The Orioles had opportunities to make a run, but they never seemed comfortable enough in their own skin to take control of the game when opportunities arose. In the seventh and eighth innngs, the O’s had the bases loaded three times – and they only netted one run. That of course was one of two runs the O’s scored yesterday – Jimmy Paredes got them on the board in the sixth with a sac fly-RBI, and Chris Davis grounded out with the bases loaded in the eighth for the second.

Later in the eighth inning (after the Davis RBI) when the O’s loaded the bases again, the spot of catcher Ryan Lavarnway came up in the order. Lavarnway’s hitting .107 (in the wake of yesterday’s game), and many people – myself included – expected the Birds to pinch hit. However Buck Showalter opted not to do that, and Lavarnway recorded an out. While Caleb Joseph caught 13 innings Saturday night, I thought it would have stood to reason that he could have pinch hit and then caught one inning. Granted he did hit in the ninth, but you get the point.

J.J. Hardy was also out of the lineup, and according to Showalter it was simply as a precaution. We should bear in mind that Showalter looks long-term, and not just at today’s game. Therefore it’s probably slightly unfair to second-guess him, although wondering why Joseph didn’t pinch hit in the 8th is a fair question.

Two bright spots for the Orioles were Chaz Roe and Brian Matusz. Roe was called up from Norfolk abruptly yesterday morning, and replaced T.J. McFarland on the roster (who was optioned). Both relievers pitched two shutout innings with two strikeouts – Matusz also gave up a hit. Matusz was especially good, appearing to put the theatrics of Saturday evening (and an almost assured suspension this week) behind him to focus on he task at hand.

Speaking of which, the Orioles seemed to think that the whole Matusz situation was nothing more than gamesmanship on the part of Dan Jennings. Obviously there was something on Matusz’s arm so in that sense it’s legitimate, however I did find it ironic to see some sort of residue on the brim of Miami starter Tom Koehler’s cap. The point is that there are pitchers on every team who pull these stunts – not for purposes of loading up the ball, but for purposes of getting a grip on it.

Either way, according to the rules it’s illegal. But the Orioles’ point of contention is more that if you’re going to tattle on someone, things better be okay in your house also. However I would submit that their “gamesmanship” worked on Saturday, and perhaps even into yesterday. The O’s didn’t seem all that interested in playing from the beginning. Presumably Matusz’s suspension will be handed down this week, and I would expect it to be similar to what Will Smith of Milwaukee got last week (eight games).

Matusz’s saving grace for a shorter suspension might be that he didn’t mouth off to the opposing dugout as he left after being ejected. He simply walked away. He also didn’t make any comments in the clubhouse afterwards. Again, if that means anything maybe he gets a shorter suspension. But don’t bet on it. Either way, he’ll probably appeal and thus be eligible to play in this Thursday’s doubleheader

Courtesy of Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles return home to take on the hot Houston Astros in a Memorial Day matinee this afternoon. Wei-Yin Chen will head to the mound for the Birds, and he’ll be opposed by Dallas Keutchel. Gam time is set for jus after 1:30 PM.

On my own behalf and on that of our great staff and the Fansided Network, I’d like to wish all of our great readers a Happy Memorial Day. May we never forget that we’re the land of free BECAUSE OFTHE BRAVE.

Next: Baltimore Orioles vs. Miami Marlins: Live Stream, Start Time, TV Info, and Lineups (5/23/15)