Shell-shocked Orioles Suffer Another Gut-wrenching LossPosted on May 20, 2013
Folks, the Orioles might have a real problem on their hands.
Orioles closer Jim Johnson's terrible week continued with his third consecutive blown save, and the Orioles' losing streak hit six with yet another heartbreaking defeat, 6-4, during a 10-inning contest against the Yankees May 20.
The O's carried a 4-3 lead into the ninth. But with one out, Johnson coughed up a game-tying solo home run to Travis Hafner. The Yankees went on to score two off Pedro Strop in the 10th to deliver another punch to the gut to the Orioles and their fans.
Johnson had converted 35 consecutive saves entering the homestand. Now he's blown three straight.
"Seems to be a common theme lately," Johnson said of his latest stumble. "I thought I made some good pitches, but obviously the homer pitch was not."
Manager Buck Showalter threw his support behind his embattled closer.
"I thought he threw the ball pretty well," Showalter said. "Just had one [bad] pitch. … We're all human beings here. The want-to [with Johnson] is over the top. He made a lot of good pitches tonight. It's frustrating for him."
So what's been going wrong the last three games with Johnson?
"It's a little bit of mechanics," Johnson said. "Obviously I'm not getting the ball to where I need to be. You've just got to work through it. We'll figure it out. I'll figure it out. There's no other options. … I think everybody's doing a great job. I'm just not pulling my weight, and I'll figure it out."
Now, let's look at some other, less negative developments from this series opener.
On paper, a pitching matchup of Yankees ace CC Sabathia against struggling O's placeholder Freddy Garcia appeared lopsided in New York's favor. But as they say, the game isn't played on paper. While the Birds battered Sabathia for 11 hits in 6.1 innings, Garcia impressed. Garcia initially appeared to be on his way to a rough night -- coughing up two solo homers in the first two innings, as six of the first seven batters put the ball in the air -- but he did a nice job of settling in and keeping the Yankees off the board the rest of the way. He allowed only one hit other than the two early homers, even if a few of them were loud outs.
Garcia appeared to be tiring in the sixth when he issued two straight walks, then hung a pitch to Travis Hafner that was clobbered approximately 500 miles (rough estimate), but just to the right of the flag court foul pole. Garcia completed his effective night's work when Alexi Casilla speared Hafner's scorcher to second and turned it into an inning-ending double play. That segues nicely into ...
Casilla, making his first start at second base in eight days, showed off his two best qualities: defense and speed. He made a number of flashy defensive plays, including the Hafner double play, and in the bottom of the seventh, he barely broke a sweat in scoring from first base on a game-tying double. For whatever reason, manager Buck Showalter has been hesitant to give Casilla consistent starts at second base, but he's played well when given the opportunity.
YOU MISSED A GREAT GAME, UMP
Matt Wieters must have wronged umpire Eric Cooper in a previous life, because Cooper blew two calls at first base in which Wieters was prominently involved.
In the top of the sixth, with Brett Gardner at first, Wieters caught him napping and threw behind the runner, with first baseman Chris Davis slapping the tag on him. Gardner appeared to be out, but Cooper inexplicably ruled the runner safe. The Orioles were able to get out of that inning with no runs scored, but Cooper's blown call almost led to a Yankees rally.
Then in the bottom of the sixth, Wieters appeared to beat third baseman David Adams' throw to first after a slow infield dribbler. Actually, forget "appeared" -- Wieters did beat the throw, plain and simple. Again, Cooper somehow missed it, ringing up a visibly angry Wieters. That call brought Showalter out of the dugout for an animated conversation as the Camden Yards crowd of 24,133 serenaded Cooper with boos. The O's should have had two runners on with none out, but Cooper's call changed the complexion of the inning and the Birds didn't score. How long until MLB implements expanded instant replay?
So how do the Orioles bounce back from yet another painful defeat? Showalter said he wasn't worried.
"Losses with our guys, they take them the way they should take them," he said. "Our guys will turn the page and show up and be ready tomorrow."
Fans certainly hope that's true, because things are threatening to spiral out of control if the Orioles don't turn it around soon. The Birds are now five games behind the division-leading Yankees -- and falling fast. This is shaping up to be one of the most painful homestands in recent memory.
Posted May 20, 2013 by Paul Folkemer