Another Late-inning Loss Drops Orioles To Fourth PlacePosted on September 11, 2013
It's September. There are less than three weeks left during the regular season, with six teams in the mix for two American League wild-card spots. Every game is critical, and it's do-or-die time in the postseason race.
The Orioles, unfortunately, are heading in the wrong direction.
The Birds Sept. 11 absorbed another hard-to-swallow late-inning loss to the Yankees, 5-4, dropping them behind New York into fourth place in the AL East and tied for fourth in the current wild-card standings.
The Orioles' bullpen let them down again, and this time there's no pointing fingers at manager Buck Showalter. Showalter entrusted a ninth-inning tie to his most reliable reliever this season, Tommy Hunter, but the right-hander coughed up a pair of runs, including a go-ahead blast by Robinson Cano.
Showalter said he wasn't inclined to bring in a left-hander to face Cano leading off the ninth, instead wanting to get a full inning out of Hunter, who had gotten the last out of the eighth inning.
"Tommy's fresh and ready to go," Showalter said. "Tommy's been throwing the ball well for us. Tommy's a good option for us, regardless of who's hitting."
For the second straight game, the O's let an early multi-run lead slip through their grasp. The Birds ran up a 3-1 edge against their longtime tormentor, Yankees starter Andy Pettitte, coming close to knocking him out of the game in the fourth inning. At one point, six O's hitters in a nine-batter span notched hits off him. But Pettitte regained his composure and ended up throwing seven strong innings.
For his part, Scott Feldman delivered another quality outing for the Birds. Coming off his first-career shutout, Feldman worked into the eighth inning and held the Yankees to three runs. In fact, three of the first 20 batters reached base against him. Unfortunately for Feldman, all three of them scored. That included solo homers by Curtis Granderson in the fifth and Alex Rodriguez in the sixth that tied the score.
"I made a couple bad pitches there, and they made me pay," Feldman said.
Still, Feldman gave his team a chance to win, as he's done during most of his recent outings. During his last six starts, Feldman has pitched to a 1.77 ERA (eight earned runs in 40.2 innings).
"He did really good," Showalter said. "I'm real proud of Scott. That was pretty impressive. It bodes well for some things he can do for us the rest of the way. He's competitive. He's got a lot of ways to get you out."
The Yankees' two ninth-inning runs off Hunter, though, proved to be the difference. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, who has appeared mortal of late, gave up a run in the ninth, but struck out Manny Machado to end the game. Rivera got the benefit of a strike call on an 0-1 pitch that appeared low, which I guess comes with the territory for a future Hall of Famer.
The Orioles, who have struggled recently with runners in scoring position, did OK in that regard this time, going 4-for-9. Danny Valencia in particular had an outstanding night at the plate, collecting four hits to tie a career high. Still, the O's turned their 13 hits into just four runs.
The O's now sit 1.5 games behind Tampa Bay for the second wild-card spot, and a half game behind the Yankees. The Orioles remain tied with the Indians and are now a half game ahead of the late-charging Royals.
The competition has gotten fierce, and the O's seem to be running out of time, but the Birds insist they're not calling it quits yet.
"We're still in striking distance, obviously," Feldman said. "Just keep our heads high and try to come out tomorrow and split the series."
Meanwhile, Adam Jones issued a challenge to his team to step up its game.
"It's always tough to swallow a loss," Jones said. "We're playing against teams that are in the same situation as us. We've got to be better. We've got to be stronger. … As a team, we just need to be that much better."
With just 17 games left on the schedule, the O's need to make every one count.
Posted Sept. 11, 2013 by Paul Folkemer