Baltimore Orioles: Sunk by a bad hop despite hot bats early
At first it looked like the Baltimore Orioles had busted out of their funk. Heck, they even dumped a big inning on Houston with four runs in the second inning. But keep in mind that Houston’s attitude is similar to that of Tampa: anything you can do, I can do better. And following Houston’s own big inning, the Orioles seemingly packed up and went home.
That’s not meant to sound overly derrogatory – however it’s true. After the second inning the Birds had exactly two more hits. And one on of them Travis Snider forgot how many outs there were in the game and was doubled off of first base in the wake of an Adam Jones flyout. Those are the types of things which happen when things aren’t going well for a team.
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Mike Wright was unable to pitch past the fifth inning for his second consecutive start. Wright’s line: 5 IP, 8 H, 5 R, 1 BB, 4 K. Let me be clear; Wright, in my personal view, has a bright future in the big leagues and in this organization. If anything, he almost didn’t serve himself well in the sense that he was so good so early. Now he’s starting to show normal growing pains that should be seen in any rookie pitcher.
The Orioles hit the deck early in the game, getting runners at the corners with one out in the second. Steve Pearce’s RBI-single gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead. However it turned into a “big inning” when Ryan Flaherty busted open a two-RBI triple to center, which gave the Birds a 3-0 lead. Flaherty hit the ball to the base of what’s known as “Tal’s Hill” at Minute Maid Park, which is the little querk their ballpark provides. The hill, which is in play, seemed to slow down the ball and allow Flaherty to reach third base.
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Manny Machado would score Flaherty with an RBI-single later in the inning, and the Orioles were looking very promising for the first time in awhile. One had to know however that Houston would make a run, although 4-0 is a decent lead. There are two parts to this collapse; Wright not being able to hold the lead, and the Orioles’ offense taking the rest of the night off. It’s not totally on one point or the other, but the end result speaks for itself.
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Part of the problem is that one could almost see on the faces of the players that they were wondering how Houston was going to rebound. If you let doubt seep into your mind, an aggressive and confident team such as Houston is going to take advantage. With two runners on in the last of the third (and one out), Preston Tucker hit a sharp single to Steve Pearce at second base. The ball took a bad hop on Pearce directly in front of him, and went into right field for an RBI-single.
A lot of fans on my twitter feed during the game wanted to argue that’s what happens when you don’t have a true second baseman playing there. The way the ball reacted made me think that perhaps it hit a small rock in the dirt. Pearce never had a chance to make a play, which incidentally would have been an inning-ending double-play. Again, those things happen to teams (even good teams) when things aren’t going well.
To make matters worse, Evan Gattis smacked a three-run homer which I’m not sure has landed at this point in the next at-bat. From the Orioles’ standpoint the game was already over I suppose, probably after the ball took that bad hop on Pearce. However Luis Valbuena took Houston back-to-back on homers, giving them a 5-4 lead. Valbuena would also score on a fielder’s choice in the eighth inning to send Houston to a 6-4 win over the O’s.
Again, let’s not pin this all on Mike Wright and his poor inning. When you only get two hits after the second inning that makes it tough to win. Snider’s miscue occured in the fifth inning; he was running on contact with one out and Jones at the plate. Buck Showalter would later say that he can handle physical mistakes, but mental errors are unacceptable. Showlater’s a tough guy to read, but at some point one figures that changes might be coming down the line. It’s unclear where Snider falls in that mix.
Bud Norris is expected to come off the DL at some point this week as well, and it’s unclear what that means for someone like Mike Wright. Perhaps he could slide into the bullpen or something along those lines, especially with the pending loss of Brian Matusz – who’s suspension appeal is being heard today. So the O’s are expecting to be without Matusz starting tonight, either for eight games or perhaps fewer.
J.J. Hardy had an MRI on what’s now being called an oblique injury. Again, it’s unclear if Hardy is bound for the DL or what, but that’s not a quick-healing thing if in fact he’s strained that muscle. The O’s will take another crack at Houston tonight with Miguel Gonzalez on the mound. He’ll be opposed by Houston’s Lance McCullers. Game time is set for just after 8 PM.
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