Written by Paul Folkemer
The Orioles dropped the rubber game to the Royals with one of their most pathetic efforts of the year, falling behind instantly and limping the rest of the way through a 9-1 loss. Apparently nobody told the O’s that this was an afternoon game, because they played as if they’d been planning to sleep in until 7 PM. Actually, we can’t be sure that they weren’t asleep. From horrid starting pitching by Chris Tillman to a wretched offensive performance against Bruce Chen to a lackadaisical defensive effort, this was one of the lousiest-played games you’ll see.
You’ve probably seen Hangout blogger Chris Stoner’s “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly” series. Frankly, for games like today’s, it’s hard to classify anything as “good.” And even “bad” is too generous a description for the ridiculous effort the O’s put up this afternoon. A more appropriate categorization would be “The Ugly, the Uglier, the Ugliest.” Let’s take a look, shall we?
The Orioles’ defense was off its game from the very start, turning a slew of potential outs into base hits. Chris Getz led off with an infield roller to short; Robert Andino fielded it but couldn’t get the ball out of his glove, resulting in an infield single. The next batter, Melky Cabrera, poked a soft liner toward center; again, Andino had a possible play but couldn’t quite reach it, and the ball landed into shallow center for an RBI single. On the same play, center fielder Adam Jones threw home but couldn’t get his man, allowing Cabrera to advance to second. Later in the inning, Andino and Mark Reynolds let a high pop-up fall between them, resulting in a Mike Aviles RBI hit. It was just a depressing defensive inning, particularly for Andino. Robert has played well for the most part, but I’m itching to get J.J. Hardy back from the disabled list.
Our next point of order: Jake Fox has no business being a catcher. I’ll admit that I was championing Fox for the backup catcher’s job in spring training, because he was tearing the cover off the ball (a major-league-leading 10 homeruns in the exhibition season) and I thought his defense could be decent, even if not on par to Craig Tatum’s. Well, I retract all of that. Fox has been a defensive disaster behind the plate in his few starts this year. He’s done a lousy job of calling a game, and he can never seem to get on the same page as his pitchers, especially today. Baserunners salivate when he’s behind the plate because they can run wild on him; Getz and Aviles both stole second in that big Royals first-inning rally. Manager Buck Showalter certainly hasn’t seemed pleased with Fox’s work as a catcher. Worse yet, Fox isn’t even hitting, which was supposed to be his one marketable skill. He went 0-for-3 today and is batting .107 on the season. I guess we’ve all learned a valuable lesson here: Don’t put any stock into spring training performances. I hereby dub this the Jake Fox Rule. Remember it, kids!
Of course, you can only blame Fox and the rest of the defense so much for the Royals’ offensive onslaught. At the end of the day, the responsibility goes to the pitcher, and Chris Tillman today was simply awful. He got a little bit of bad luck in that first inning, but there were also some sharply hit balls, including a Wilson Betemit RBI double. The Royals sent eight batters to the plate in the first and scored four runs. Tillman’s location was terrible in the zone-- he consistently left fat pitches in the middle of the plate, and hitters didn’t miss them. His stuff just looked paltry. Tillman gave up back-to-back doubles to score another run in the second, then was finally chased in the fourth after a walk, a single, and a Cabrera two-run two-bagger (Melky collected four RBIs today, later homering off Clay Rapada in the eighth).
Tillman’s line: 3 2/3 innings, a whopping 10 hits, and eight runs, inflating his ERA to 7.16. Let’s face facts, everyone: Tillman has regressed since his making his major-league debut two years ago. His stuff is worse. His velocity is worse. He’s pitching with no confidence whatsoever. Only by the benefit of Brian Matusz’s injury is he still in the rotation, but it remains to be seen whether he can even hold on to his spot for another 2-3 weeks until Matusz returns. Something is very wrong with Chris Tillman, and the Orioles need to figure out how to get him back on track.
Ooh, bonus category! I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the miserable showing by the O’s offense, which was completely dominated by Bruce Chen, of all people. Bruce Chen, the guy who washed out with the Orioles five years ago and has been jettisoned by 10 different teams in his career. He’s one of the nicest guys in the world, but he’s not a good pitcher-- except when he faces the Orioles. Somehow, a lot of mediocre pitchers suddenly enjoy success when they’re throwing to the Birds’ bats. Funny how that works. Chen today overpowered the Birds with seven quality innings, allowing just one run in the first on a Jones RBI single. He had as many strikeouts (five) as hits allowed, and he’s not even a strikeout pitcher. Ridiculous. Thanks for showing up, Orioles. You really earned those paychecks today.
Chen cruised to the victory and is now 4-1, while Tillman dropped to 1-3. Orioles lose, 9-1.
MLB.com Box Score
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