As die-hard Oriole fans have endured throughout the past 13 seasons, blowing leads and finding ways to lose the game instead of win is something the Oriole ballclub has nailed to a teat. But, this year should be different right? A new manager, an entirely new coaching staff and new superstars to pack the green seats inside Camden Yards should spell a better fate.
If last week’s 6-run meltdown in the late innings against the surging Boston Red Sox and then an awful two-game sweep at the hands of the Bombers was any indication for the remainder of year, it could be another short, disappointing, and heartbreaking season for the Birds.
But, the Orioles rebounded strongly this week after salvaging the last two games of the Beltway series against the Nationals (following the cross-town rival Nats demolishment of the O’s Friday night 17-5). The Orioles swept the Kansas City Royals out of Baltimore and are riding a five game win streak.
Now, let’s take a look at this series and break it down by the numbers.
Game 1 was all about the pitchers.
Zach Britton (5-2) toed the mound on Tuesday night for the opening game of the three game series hosting the Royals, so O’s fans probably thought that this game was in the bag since he’s been remarkable this season as a rookie. But, Oriole fans hadn’t heard of the Royals own lefty-sensation Danny Duffy (0-0) until he stepped to the mound in the bottom of the 1st.
Tuesday was Duffy’s second career start, and it looked as if he was going to get his first major league victory. Duffy tossed 5.1 innings, allowed two earned runs, five hits, three walks and struck out six Oriole hitters and he exited the game leading 3-2 in the 6th.
Britton threw six innings, surrendered three earned runs, scattered nine hits, walked two, struck out two, and left the game trailing 3-2. Although he did not pitch badly by any means, Britton was not his usual dominant self. Britton surrendered three runs in a game for the third time this year, but he’d never given up nine hits in a single start. But, he did his job and kept the Orioles in the game.
The Orioles trailed 3-2 heading into the 9th inning facing the Royals closer Joakim Soria, who was looking for his 8th save in 10 chances. When the O’s have been behind this season in the 9th inning, you can basically begin preparation for the next game, as they had not won a game while trailing in the 9th inning all season.
But, Tuesday night was different. After back-to-back doubles by shortstop J.J. Hardy, who has been a great addition for the Birds, and left fielder Felix Pie, who tied the game at 3, scolding center fielder Adam Jones stepped to the plate and dug himself into an 0-2 hole with the winning run at 2nd base.
Soria tried to blow a fastball by Jones up in the zone, but he did not elevate the ball enough, and Jones smashed a two-run homerun to center field for his first, walk-off homerun as a big leaguer and the Orioles won their third straight 5-3.
The Orioles brought their hitting shoes to the middle game of the series as they exploded for eight runs in the fourth inning and went on to win the game 9-2.
Luke Hochevar (2-5), coming off of a great performance against Texas as he pitched 8.2 innings and only gave up one earned, manned the hill for the Royals on Wednesday night. Hochevar was cruising through the game until the fourth inning and then he lost his command.
The O’s sent 13 men to the plate, knocked two doubles, four singles, and three walks, and the Royals committed an error to help the Orioles score eight runs and take an early 8-0 lead. After the 4th, Hochevar calmed down and retired the Orioles in order the next three innings.
Jake Arrieta, who behind Britton has been the O’s second most consistent starter, took the mound for the Birds and won his team-leading 6th game of the year. Arrieta worked himself into and out of jams by walking three batters and scattering five hits throughout his six innings of work. He only allowed a two-run homerun to Melky Cabrera in the top of the 5th inning.
Third baseman Mark Reynolds added his sixth homerun in the 8th inning as the O’s went on to win 9-2, and the series. The O’s are now 8-8-1 in their series matches this year.
The final game was a matinee getaway game for the teams as both were on the move after Thursday’s afternoon contest. Orioles ace Jeremy Guthrie (2-6), who has had a tough time winning games this year even though his ERA is sub 4, toed the rubber looking for a sweep against lefty Jeff Francis and the Royals.
The Royals pounced on top first this game and scored four early second inning runs to stake Francis to a nice lead. But, this season has been about the Orioles and their ability to battle back. This time, it didn’t take long as recently recalled left fielder Nolan Reimold sent his second homerun of the season into the left field seats in the bottom of the second to cut the Royal lead to 4-1.
The O’s exploded in the bottom of the 3rd inning after an RBI single by Reynolds to cut the deficit to two, and then another homerun by Reimold, this time of the 3-RBI variety and that quickly the Orioles gained the lead 5-4.
That lead would not last too long as Guthrie surrendered an RBI double by left fielder Alex Gordon to tie up the game at five in the 5th inning, and it would stay 5-5 until the bottom of the 12th inning.
The Orioles loaded the bases in the bottom of the 11th inning with 0 outs, but failed to score after pinch-hitter Luke Scott grounded out to first base and then pinch-hitter Matt Wieters grounded into a tailor made double play up the middle to end the rally.
But, in the bottom of the 12th, second baseman Robert Andino doubled to center to lead off the inning and scored on an RBI single up the middle from the Orioles’ hottest hitter Vlad Guerrero as they won 6-5 in 12 innings and completed a 3 game sweep of the Royals.
Streaks to Watch for Out West
Right fielder Nick Markakis has hit safely in 156 consecutive series, which is the longest streak in the majors right now, and he currently has an 11 game hitting streak.
Designated hitter/outfielder Vlad Guerrero currently has an 11 game hitting streak (which he extended in his last at-bat of the game on Thursday afternoon).
The Oriole bullpen has thrown 16 consecutive scoreless innings (five innings on Thursday afternoon).
The Orioles have won 24 games this season, and their 24th win last year came on June 30th (they are over a month in front of last year’s pace under Showalter).
Tonight’s starting pitcher Chris Tillman has not allowed a homerun in six starts, the longest streak for a Baltimore starting pitcher since 2007.
Friday night in Oakland
After the 12 inning game yesterday, the 6 hour flight to Oakland, and the time change, lefty starter Gio Gonzalez (5-2) is the last person the Oriole hitters want to face on their first trip out to the West Coast this season.
Gonzalez is 5-2 this season with an impressive 2.20 ERA, which ranks him 6th in the American League behind Seattle start Michael Pineda, with 23 walks and 56 strikeouts. Over 12.1 innings facing the Orioles in his career, Gonzalez is 1-0 with a 2.19 ERA.
At home this season, Gonzalez has pitched even better, if that is possible. He’s 3-1 with a sub two ERA (1.93) and he’s struck out 33 opponents in just 32.2 innings in five outings. Gonzalez strikes out about 8.8 batters each game.
The A’s always give the Orioles problems, and especially at the Coliseum. The Birds have lost nine of their last 10 meetings in Oakland and 17 of their last 21 overall matchups. But, the Athletics have dropped 10 of their last 15 games. Over the last five seasons, Baltimore is 10-25 against Oakland.
It seems as if the O’s are heading out west at the perfect time while riding their longest win streak of the season as they try to extend it to 6 games; the last time the O’s strung together six wins in a row was Aug. 2nd-8th of 2008.
The A’s have a 24-27 record and are currently 2 ½ games behind Texas Rangers, although they are last in the competitive AL West. The Orioles find themselves in 4th place in the east at 24-24 and are only three games behind the Bronx Bombers (27-21), who will be in Seattle tonight.
Tonight, the Orioles will send Chris Tillman to the mound as he attempts to even his record at three wins and three losses. He enters the game with a 4.95 ERA, but he’s struck out 30 and only walked 17 in 43.2 innings this year. Tillman has never faced the Oakland ballclub.
The Orioles offense the last week has been a complete turnaround from the beginning of the season and it seems as if Jones, Markakis, Guerrero and Reynolds have all found their strokes at the same time.
Markakis is eight for his last 25, with six runs, and one RBI. Reynolds has accumulated six hits in his last 20 at-bats, scored five runs, with one homerun and two RBI. Jones has gone eight for his last 27, with one hr, five RBI and four runs. And, Guerrero has identical numbers as Jones with one less run scored over his last seven days.
The Orioles and the A’s will square off for the first time of the season tonight at 7:05 pm on the west coast and 10:05 pm back east.
Note: Second baseman Brian Roberts will be re-evaluated in about a couple of weeks to see if his concussion symptoms are gone. First baseman Derrek Lee plans to return to the Orioles lineup on Wednesday, June 1st in Seattle. Starting pitcher Brian Matusz will most likely return to the rotation on their trip to Seattle.
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About the Author
Written by Alex Van Rees
I am 22 years old and I recently graduated from James Madison University this May with a BA degree and a major in journalism. I live in Reston, VA, about 20 minutes outside of Washington. I am looking for an entry-level position with a sports media company where I can demonstrate my writing, interviewing and technical skills to better the organization.