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  • Apr

    Giving it Away - Twins 4, Orioles 3 4/7

    Written by Mike Laws

    O’s surrender yet another lead; can’t come back this time




    An alarming trend: In every single game so far this season — even those they’d go on to win — the Baltimore Orioles have led early, then surrendered that advantage. Additionally, in all of these contests, save for the home opener against the Twins, that lead consisted of a crooked number; and in all of them, even the home opener, the offense struck in or before its half of the third inning.


    The point being: Even staked to an early, usually multiple-run lead, the pitching just hasn’t been able to hold up its end of a winning formula.


    And so it went on Sunday afternoon in the rubber match against the Minnesota Twins, a game in which the O’s jumped out to a 3-0 lead after three — and then went entirely too quietly into that not-so-good night as the pitching and defense coughed everything right back up.


    So, sadly, on to the bullet points …


    • Oriole starter Jason Hammel was by no means great, in this one. But what he did do was battle. And he probably deserved better, for his effort. After cruising through two innings — and after watching his offense push three across in the bottom of the second, keyed by J.J. Hardy’s two-run shot and Nick Markakis’s timely two-out RBI single — Hammel’s command deserted him in the Minnesota third, when he walked both number-nine hitter Pedro Florimon and Joe Mauer on four pitches apiece and plunked Willingham with the first pitch of that at-bat. Even so, he coaxed a pair of fly-ball outs to center field, and appeared to be out of trouble entirely when Justin Morneau lifted a third can-o’-corn out to Adam Jones — except Jones lost it in the sun, and it fell between the center fielder and Nolan Reimold for a (quote-unquote) two-run double … 


    • … after which, as I’ve alluded to, Hammel responded admirably. He did issue another walk — to Florimon, of all people, and a leadoff walk at that — in the sixth, but faced the minimum three hitters in the fourth, fifth and sixth (doubling Florimon off on a liner to Hardy). Somehow, even with his control problems, Hammel entered the seventh having thrown only 72 pitches. And he looked poised to keep rolling against his first hitter that inning, Trevor Plouffe, who fell into a hole at 1-2 before taking a Hammel two-seamer off his elbow. A single, sacrifice bunt and sac-fly followed, knotting this one at 3 — and then Aaron Hicks, 1 for his last 24, raised his average to .077 at the worst possible time, as far as the Camden Yards faithful were concerned, stroking a line-drive base hit into right and giving the Twins their first lead of the day, 4-3 …


    • … which would hold up as the eventual winning run in light of the O’s powerhouse offense finally falling silent. Following their three-run outpouring in the second, the Birds went down in order in four separate frames; and when they did threaten, they just couldn’t seem to come through with that big base hit. Following a Jones double and a free pass to DH Steve Pearce in the fourth, Hardy grounded into an inning-ending double play. Reimold did likewise with two men on in the sixth. Manny Machado popped out and Chris Davis grounded out with two on in the seventh. Live by the two-out miracle, die by the lack thereof, I guess. A tough pill to swallow and a disheartening series loss, but hey, there’s always tomorrow.





    AND NOW, IF YOU’LL PERMIT ME TO GRUMBLE ABOUT OFFICIAL SCORING: I’m sorry, but Jason Hammel should not be charged with four earned runs in this game. A fly ball the center fielder loses in the sun should be ruled an error. Period. End of story. Whether or not said center fielder touches the ball is immaterial; and actually, the fact that he couldn’t even get a glove on it probably makes his failure even more glaring (excuse the pun). We’re talking about a Gold Glover who failed to make a routine catch on a lazy fly ball — that is, failed to record an out when an out is the expected outcome — thus allowing runs to score and the inning to continue. Since when is the presence of our planet’s sun a mitigating factor, as official scoring concerns fielders? Baseball, lest we forget, was actually made to be played in the daylight hours …


    WHICH BRINGS ME TO: First off, let me state for the record that I’m actually a big fan of Adam Jones, and that while I think he deserves to be charged with an error on the play alluded to above, I also understand that it does happen, from time to time. That said, there is no excuse — none, at all — for Jones’s lack of hustle in the eighth, when (as it turned out) Minnesota reliever Jared Burton mishandled his check-swing comebacker, effectively turning it into a well-placed bunt between pitcher and second baseman. Jones was the leadoff hitter in the eighth inning of a ballgame his team — the team of which he’s said to be a leader — trailed by one run. His job is to get on base, there. And he dogged it. And because he’d dogged it, he gave Burton time to make up for his miscue and record the putout. Unacceptable.


    AND FINALLY, ON AN UNRELATED BUT UNFORTUNATELY KIND OF PREDICTABLE NOTE: Nolan Reimold left the game following his GIDP in the bottom of the sixth with an apparent hamstring injury. He and Brian Roberts apparently just can’t win, with the baseball gods. Here’s wishing both a speedy recovery.



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