Baltimore Orioles: Steve Pearce Replacing Chris Davis Paid Off


First thing’s first regarding the Baltimore Orioles; many fans were pleased to see Chris Davis get yesterday off. This isn’t a reflection on Davis per se, as much as it is on how much he’s struggling at the plate right now. Sometimes a full day off is exactly what a guy needs to get himself going. Incidentally, that’s no different than anyone else at any other job.

However as a team I would submit that the Orioles are a bit overly-predictable. One thing I noticed during yesterday’s 4-3 win over Houston was that there were times when the Houston fielders didn’t even have to move. And this is something I’ve noticed all season long – and even in past years. Ironically Chris Davis is actually fairly good at hitting to the opposite field – but only when he’s in the lineup and makes contact with the ball.

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But on numerous times, both on popups to the outfield and even infield grounders, there are plenty of times in which the Birds literally hit the ball directly to the fielders.  And quite frankly if you’re an Orioles fan, that’s kind of a problem. What that effectively means is that the spray charts show guys hitting the ball to basically the exact same spots with consistency. And it allows teams to perfectly position their fielders so as to all but ensure the Orioles record outs.

Instead, Houston appears to have a bit more of a balanced attack at the plate. In the fifth inning of yesterday’s game Evan Gattis hit a ball the opposite way at a moment when the Oriole outfield was shaded towards centerfield. Had the outfield been playing straight away, odds are that would have been a long flyball out.

The good news for the Orioles is that they found a way to change this dynamic a bit yesterday. They got a decent start from Wei-Yin Chen, although he probably pitched better than his stats indicate. Chen’s line: 5 IP, 11 H, 3 R, 0 BB, 6 K. Chen was replaced in the top of the sixth by Brad Brach, who also incredibly solid. Oliver Drake and Zach Britton closed out the game for the Birds, who showed shades of their strong 2014 bullpen yesterday.

The way in which the Orioles changed the dynamic was by using the longball – which has evaded them a bit of late. Over the weekend in Miami they didn’t hit nary one home run. Granted that might not necessarily be a fair comparison given that Marlins Park is so pitcher-friendly. However we saw what a difference it made as the O’s dropped two-of-three.

With Delmon Young at first in the second inning, Caleb Joseph‘s line drive cleared the left field wall and gave the Birds a 2-0 lead. However an inning later George Springer decided that two could play at that game and cut the lead to 2-1 with a homer of his own. Chris Carter would give Houston the lead with an opposite field two-RBI single off the right field wall. Again, Carter’s a right-handed hitter. Not only did he drive in two runs for his team by not hitting the ball to where the spray charts say he hits, but he went the opposite way.

If the Orioles can start to have more dynamic at-bats like this over the course of games, they’ll find themselves with more base runners which will ultimately equal more runs. Incidentally, you might throw a maybe in front of the part about more runs. Houston put 11 hits on the board yesterday – and they only netted those three runs. Credit Chen, and the Orioles’ bullpen.

Baseball never ceases to give us ironies. Go figure that Buck Showalter would pick yesterday to sit Chris Davis, and that he would start Steve Pearce at first base instead. So with a runner on base in the last of the seventh, Pearce came to bat with one gone. Talk about changing the dynamic – Pearce sent a shot to deep center, which of course is not exactly a location that’s on his spray chart. The ball

Courtesy of Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

made it over the wall, and suddenly the O’s had a 4-3 lead which stood up and held thanks to the Orioles’ bullpen.

It’s at-bats as such which need to be more commonplace with the O’s if they’re going to be successful. If they’re going to record fly ball outs, they might as well be loud fly ball outs. The fielders shouldn’t be taking nary two steps to catch the ball. If the Orioles can hit more dynamically, they’ll find more success.

J.J. Hardy came out of the game prior to the eighth inning with back tightness, however Buck Showalter said that he’ll probably be ready to go tomorrow (quote courtesy of Roch Kubatko of MASNsports):

"I think he’s going to be OK tomorrow. He was fine yesterday and had nothing. He came in today with a stiff back, and as the morning went on, he felt fine. Went out and took ground balls and some light swings. Thought he was going to be OK."

The Orioles will continue the Houston series this evening with Chris Tillman on the mound. He’ll be opposed by former Oriole Scott Feldman, with game time set for just after 7 PM.

Next: Baltimore Orioles: Brian Matusz suspended eight games, will appeal

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