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  • May

    Wrong Side of a Sweep

    Written by Mike Laws

    Wrong side of a sweep

    Listless offense, subpar pitching conspire to undo O’s in finale with Padres

    San Diego 8, Orioles 4


    Call it the blown-save hangover. Asked to get right back on that horse some fourteen hours after Jim Johnson’s lone meltdown thus far in the 2013 season, the Orioles responded with precisely the kind of performance they’ve been able to avoid all year, following a demoralizing loss: a limp effort in which a near-complete inability to produce timely hits collided with all sorts of issues on the pitcher’s mound (not to mention a pair of costly defensive miscues). The results — to say the least — weren’t pretty.


    All right, let’s get this over with as painlessly as possible. The bullet points:


    • OK, first things first: the pitching. … There basically wasn’t any. Or at least not the kind we wanted to see. I guess the best thing you could say about starter Freddy Garcia’s effort was that he somehow, in hindsight miraculously, avoided trouble in the first despite yielding a single and a walk, inducing an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play off the bat of Carlos (“Bonecrusher”) Quentin. But if you were hoping for a repeat of that tightrope act, in the second, it wasn’t to be: After a two-out double from Alexi Amarista bounced off the warning track and into the stands in right-center, momentarily sparing the Birds an early deficit — the runner on first, Jedd Gyorko, had to return to third base — the light-hitting John Baker (.115, entering play today) stroked a single into center, plating both runners. 2-0, San Diego … 


    • Which the Orioles, also momentarily, cut in half, in their half of the second, courtesy of a home run to left from J.J. Hardy. And with one away, Padres starter Jason Marquis would surrender consecutive walks (Steve Pearce on four pitches, Nate McLouth after he’d fallen behind 0-2). Looked like we had something cooking — especially with Manny Machado striding up to the dish, already 1-1 on the day. But while Machado would wind up 4-for-5 with three doubles, he picked quite the bum time to record his one out, bouncing into a 4-6-3 twin killing. Shucks.


    • The respective hurlers traded quick one-two-three trips in the third, but if you were thinking Garcia was settling in, you’d be 100 percent wrong, on this particular occasion. In the fourth — an inning he wouldn’t escape — Garcia coughed up a long blast to a first-pitch-hitting Kyle Blanks, another double to Amarista and finally a walk, to Everth Cabrera, at which point the right-hander was lifted in favor of T.J. McFarland — who, though he’d gotten up 1-2 on his first hitter, Will Venable, couldn’t strand the inherited Amarista. Venable clubbed a double into the gap in right; 4-1, San Diego …


    • And while again the O’s would take one back by way of a homer to lead off their next half-inning — this time from Matt Wieters, who waited on a hanging full-count Marquis breaking ball, and smashed it into the bleachers beyond right-center — the Padres would tack on another run against in the sixth. And sadly, this one fell into the shouldn’t-have-happened category, with Tommy Hunter, on to spell McFarland after the lefty’d surrendered a single to Cabrera, inducing a harmless-looking pop-fly out behind second — which Ryan Flaherty couldn’t find, in the sun, and let fall. 5-2, and not a banner day for Flaherty, who’d also go 0-for-4 with three strikeouts …


    • Meanwhile, aside from the two home runs, the Orioles were finding all sorts of ways not to score, against Marquis. In the fifth, following a one-out double inside the bag at third from Machado and a lined single off the glove of Cabrera off the bat of Nick Markakis, it was Adam Jones, first-ball hitting, who pounded a grounder right at Cabrera for a tailor-made twin-killing. Chris Davis led the Oriole sixth off with a double smoked down the right-field line; Wieters followed with a nicely worked base-on-balls. First and second, no one out, down a three-spot; if ever there were a time to pounce, this was it. But then Hardy flied out, Flaherty struck out and Pearce popped up meekly to third. The runners stayed right where they were, and so did the scoreline.


    • Well, until the next half-inning, anyway, when Hunter hurt his own cause by throwing high to first on a dribbler just to the third-base side of the mound, after which Amarista wasted very little time in slashing a homer just into the Oriole bullpen in left-center. 7-2 …


    • And while a two-out RBI single from Jones cashed in on a Machado double (finally!) in the Oriole seventh, and Troy Patton found himself alone amongst Oriole hurlers today in achieving a scoreless line — Patton surrendered a single, but nothing else, in the eighth — the Birds went quietly in their half of the penultimate frame, making nothing, once again, of a leadoff walk to Wieters …


    • After which it was Pedro Strop’s turn to showcase some mediocrity. After allowing a single to Gyorko to kick things off in the ninth, the hard-throwing but epically mercurial righty looked like he actually might emerge unscathed, retiring Blanks by way of a pop-up and fanning Amarista on a nasty slider (so nasty it actually hit Amarista, who’d swung nonetheless). But then for whatever reason, Strop decided to pay far more attention to the essentially meaningless runner at first — who’d been there all inning, by the way — tossing over several times and evidently forgetting he was facing the No. 9 hitter, Baker, whom he’d walk on five pitches. That put runners on first and second, now, and of course Cabrera slapped a single into right, good for the Padres’ eighth and final run, and seventeenth total base hit. No San Diego batsman went hitless; four of them enjoyed a multi-hit afternoon (including Gyorko and Amarista, the Nos. 6 and 8 hitters, respectively). All of which meant that it added up to nothing much when Machado hit a ball over the Amarista’s head, in center, and Markakis followed with a shot over Venable’s head, in right, good for a piddling fourth, and final, Oriole run. A Thursday off’s next on the calendar; maybe not getting right back out there and playing more baseball is, in this case, just what the doctor ordered …

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