Baltimore Orioles, Chris Tillman fall in a game of inches


The Baltimore Orioles were unable to capitalize on a decent outing by Chris Tillman as they fell to Minnesota, 3-2 last night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Tillman’s line: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 6 K. Once again folks, that’s a quality start. With a few exceptions, Oriole starting pitchers are putting the Birds in a position to win games – Oriole bats just aren’t always coming through when they need to.

The Orioles can do the big things – such as the three-run homer. That’s to their credit (although they didn’t hit any home runs last night). However when they get into a game of inches such as many of their games against Minnesota this year have been, they lag far behind. In similar fashion to teams such as Tampa, Kansas City, and others, Minnesota’s trying to figure out how to score one run while the Orioles are trying to figure out how to work a three-run homer into the mix. And that’s not necessarily right or wrong; but it does come out as unfortunate when “small” uses “big’s” aggressiveness against him to win.

Courtetsy of Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The ironic thing was that the Orioles seemed to play Minnesota’s game last night – and it was the long ball that was missing – which would have lifted the O’s to victory. And perhaps that’s part of the issue when they play a team like Minnesota in that if you’re able to bring the big guy down to your level you can still beat him with experience. Henry Urrutia gave the Orioles a 1-0 lead in the last of the second with an RBI-double, scoring Steve Clevenger. And 1-0 the score remained until the sixth, when Brian Dozier‘s RBI-single tied it at one.

And in that scoring sequence for Minnesota we see their game plan a bit. The inning began with an Escobar double, and he was sacrifice bunted to third by Buxton so that Dozier could plate him. In that scenario I question the usefulness of wasting an out because the runner’s already in scoring position. However I also forget that if the runner’s at third he can score on a fly ball to the outfield as well. Now I do stand by my point of wasting an out, but a team like Minnesota doesn’t see it that way; they see it as raising the probability of scoring a run.

Ironically, the O’s loaded the bases in the last of the sixth but only netted one run on – you guessed it – a sacrifice fly. They took a 2-1 lead on a sac fly-RBI by J.J. Hardy. He may be struggling at the plate, but he ended up with an RBI and gave the Orioles the lead. That brought Henry Urrutia to the plate with runners at first and second, and perhaps he typified Minnesota’s point to an extent. Urrutia singled; with a runner in scoring position, the O’s should have scored, right?

That runner at second base was Matt Wieters, who doesn’t run as well as some others. Wieters was forced to stop at third. So yes the O’s got a hit with a runner in scoring position; it just didn’t yield them a run. Manny Machado struck out to end the inning, and the Birds stranded the bases loaded.

And that ended up costing the Orioles the game. One inning later Buck Showalter ordered an intentional walk of Escobar to load the bases and to give reliever Brad Brach a better chance to get out of the situation by pitching to Buxton. While the reasoning was sound and thus it was the right thing to do, it backfired. Buxton’s two-RBI single gave Minnesota a 3-2 lead, which stood up for the rest of the game and sent the Orioles down in defeat.

It’s tough to explain how small things can beat a team that thinks so big. It’s as if the O’s are a boxer looking to knock someone out but the other guy jabs a finger into their eyes; it’s a small point, but it does the job. (And yes folks, I recognize that boxers can’t do that…but work with me here!) If you go up always looking to hit a hole-in-one, odds are you aren’t going to make the cut.

The Orioles will try to salvage one game in this series this afternoon, and they’ll also try to depart from home this evening after a winning home stand – that’s what a win would mean this afternoon. The O’s will send Kevin Gausman to the mound. He’ll be opposed by Minnesota’s Mike Pelfrey. Game time is set for just after 1:30 PM.

Next: Baltimore Orioles need to start expecting the unexpected

More from Birds Watcher