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  • Apr
    28

    Still no sweep. Orioles lose 9-to-8 in Extras.

    Written by Mike Laws

    Still no sweep

    Powerhouse offense not enough as O’s cough up multiple leads

    Orioles 8, Oakland 9

     

    Why Pedro Strop is still getting called on to pitch in crucial situations is beyond me. After effectively forcing an overworked Jim Johnson in to close out yesterday’s affair, hitting his first batter with a pitch and walking his second — which meant Buck Showalter was even leerier of having to use Johnson today, and didn’t, and watched as Brian Matusz surrendered a game-tying two-run shot in the ninth — Strop came on and promptly walked his first hitter. Then he fell behind 3-1 on the second man he faced, pinch hitter Josh Reddick, and was lucky when, for reasons untold, Reddick helped him by chasing what would’ve been ball four. For an encore, Strop — still in the game in the tenth, probably because the Orioles were running perilously low on bullpen arms — gave up a single to Eric Sogard, the first batsman he faced that inning; fielded a bunt laid down by Adam Rosales and attempted to cut down Sogard, the lead runner, and of course winged the ball into center; and then watched as Coco Crisp bunted down the third-base line and Manny Machado, likewise going after the lead runner, handcuffed a covering J.J. Hardy, the relay bounding into short left as Sogard scampered home with the game-winning run.

     

    Sigh. Can’t win ’em all, I suppose. On to the bullet points …

     

    • Of course, my introductory paragraph notwithstanding, it’s hard to blame this all on Strop. Not when the Oriole offense gave the staff every opportunity to complete this four-game sweep. For the second day in a row the Birds, having looked nonplussed the first time through the order, jumped on the A’s starter the second time through, posting a four-run fourth. Today it all started with (surprise, surprise) Nate McLouth, who singled to center. Machado, following him, wasted no time, depositing a single of his own into right on the first Bartolo Colon offering he saw. Hey, let’s everybody single, now! Right? Nick Markakis and Adam Jones followed suit, both going to right (the latter a Derek Jeter-esque bloop job) and we were in business. O’s up 1-0. But they weren’t done yet. Chris Davis took a pair of Colon deliveries off the plate, then smashed a double — the Birds’ fifth consecutive hit in the frame, and the first for extra bases — good for two more runs. And though Matt Wieters would record the inning’s first out, his fly to left carried deep enough to cash in Jones. 4-0. 

     

    • They’d add to that margin their very next turn at the dish, with McLouth poking a one-out single and Machado reaching by virtue of what must be, like, the twentieth Oriole infield hit of this series. After Markakis lined out to left, Jones smacked a topper down the third-base line, a ball that probably could’ve been played by Josh Donaldson, but picked up some wicked topspin on its second bounce and eluded the glove, rolling into left. McLouth scores; Machado’s thrown out at home. Oh, well. 5-0, O’s …

     

    • Which would’ve seemed a sufficient lead, the way Baltimore starter Miguel Gonzalez was throwing the ball. Which is to say, Chen-esque. The Wei-Yin Way. Et cetera. Entering his sixth inning of work, Gonzalez had allowed just two base hits while striking out four and walking not a soul. What’s more, he appeared to be picking up steam the deeper the game wore on, retiring the last seven Athletics to have come to the dish. But gee — wasn’t this right where Gonzalez had a spot of trouble, his last time out? The sixth was, again, unkind to the Cold Killer in this one — and that’s putting it decidedly mildly. His stuff and command abandoning him all at once, Gonzalez began falling behind hitters — something he hadn’t done all day — surrendering, in order: a leadoff double; another double, this one plating a run; a single; a run-scoring fielder’s choice (which would be the final out he’d record); another single; a walk (!); and, finally, a Donaldson double, good for two runs, bringing this one to 5-4 …

     

    • In hindsight, that Troy Patton, called upon to spell Gonzalez with the bases loaded (following an intentional walk to Chris Young), was able to wriggle out of the situation without further damage was kind of an oasis in what was to become a desert of horrors. But Patton’s performance in the sixth, flying Sogard out to left and inducing a meek comebacker from Rosales, appeared just the tonic the Birds needed, and they’d go on to pad this newly slim lead in the top of the seventh by way of a McLouth single and stolen base and a Machado RBI double. 6-4, O’s. Methinks I’m detecting a trend, here …

     

    • But hang on. Before we can continue to talk about the dynamic offense, we’ve got to note that the bottom of the seventh was the first sign of this vaunted bullpen faltering. For, with one on and one away, Seth Smith took Patton deep into the Oakland afternoon, knotting this one at sixes ...

     

    • Even so, it wasn’t like Oakland’s relief work was much better. After righty Ryan Cook had given up the insurance run in the sixth, southpaw Sean Doolittle came on and, though he’d started out gangbusters, popping Jones out to short on one pitch and jumping out ahead of Davis nothing-and-two, made what I guess you could call a bad pitch, a slider over the outer half that stayed up just enough for mighty Davis to flick it to right — and, uh, over the wall 380-some feet away. 7-6, Baltimore. Dude had one hand on the bat. Somewhere Roger Federer is thanking his lucky stars Davis chose baseball …

     

    • Want more false hope? Witness, in the eighth, Matusz needing just ten pitches to retire the side — and, in the top of the ninth, the O’s again padding that lead, this time against hard-man Grant Balfour, with (and this is getting ridiculous now) McLouth and Machado swatting back-to-back doubles. 8-6. Both McLouth and Machado now 4-for-5 on the day. That sweep’s looking good right about now, eh?

     

    • Nope! Matusz hung a 1-2 slider against leadoff man Derek Norris to start the ninth, then, after a beautiful sequence against Smith that eventuated in a called strike three, faced the just-returned-from-injury Yoenis Cespedes. The Baltimore lefty actually got ahead of the Cuban expat 1-and-2, but made a crucial mistake: He appeared to repeat what he’d thrown for the second strike, which Cespedes had fouled off into the screen behind the plate on a vicious cut. Cespedes didn’t miss it twice, sending a bomb way out to left and into the bleachers, tying this thing up at 8-8 …

     

    • … Which is where Strop comes in, if you want to loop back up and take another gander at the top of this recap and thereby enter into a kind of recursive baseball hell. I wouldn’t recommend it. On to Seattle. See you then, sportsfans.

     

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