The problem with writing post games the second that the game is over is that if they lose, especially in a frustrating fashion, it's hard to want to think rationally. Thinking back on last night's game with a clear head, there were actually a lot of good things to focus on. There were a lot of bad things as well, believe me, but this team actually looked different to me than the team in Seattle (and Oakland, and Camden Yards...)
The batters took a lot of pitches and had some very good at bats. Unfortunately, a number of those at bats ended with the batter chasing strike three out of the zone, but it was still a welcome sight over all of the first and second pitch hack jobs we've seen this season. Because the Orioles couldn't capitalize on their opportunities, Lester ended up not allowing any runs, but they did get him out of the game in just 5.2 innings. Lester faced 25 batters and threw 113 pitches in those 5.2 innings, which is 4.52 pitches/plate appearance. On Wednesday, Felix Hernandez also threw 113 pitches in 9 innings, with the Orioles seeing a pathetic 3.23 pitches/plate appearance. Against Vargas they saw 3.89, Fister 3.2. I could continue to go back through the box scores, but you get the gist.
Nick Markakis and Matt Wieters are both looking very good at the plate. Nick, facing a tough lefty in Lester, just went with the pitch in the first inning to place a nice opposite field double, and hit another great shot to left field in the ninth (what happened at the end of that hit doesn't belong on the good column, however). Wieters is hitting the ball hard and had a really great double to the left-center gap.
I am feeling...cautiously optimistic about Adam Jones. I'm not quite ready to stop calling him Corey Patterson, but going back to his final AB against Felix Hernandez (which was the best AB I'd seen from him in weeks), he looks a little different. He had an impressive AB in the 5th inning against Lester where he saw 8 pitches, he laid off some bad balls, hit a few fouls. Unfortunately it didn't end impressively has he chased strike three in classic Adam style, but the Adam Jones I've come to know this season would have been out four pitches earlier chasing the first ball Lester threw in the dirt. His next AB, against Daniel Bard, had a much happier ending. Jones worked the count to 3-2 and on the 8th pitch of the AB launched a home run into the Green Monster seats. It was a hell of an at bat against a very good pitcher.
Again, the starting pitching did its job. Guthrie wasn't at his best last night, as he didn't strike anyone out and allowed a home run to the broken down David Ortiz, but he was also the victim of a few bloops and quite a bit of bad defense. He only pitched six innings but if not for the errors by Tejada he might have been able to go another inning. But even on a night when Guthrie didn't have his best stuff, he kept the team in the game so that they could come back and tie in the 8th.
I know that right now none of the Orioles starting pitchers are dominating, but they have been so solid that it's a shame they've been teamed up with hitters who can't hit and a completely shoddy bullpen.
Finally in the good column, this team, despite its miscues and inability to get the runners in when they needed to, they fought in this game. I dare someone to tell me they didn't care or that they were listless or whatever other garbage people like to say about the Orioles when they're losing.
I was wowed by Tejada's defense at third when the season first started, but the shine is fading. His play in 5th inning was simply horrible, and his haphazard throw to 2nd base was inexcusable. He was charged with two errors last night but honestly it could have been three. The infield single to start the fifth inning could have been called either way.
Jim Palmer has mentioned it several times, but the fact is this infield only has one player (Cesar Izturis) in his natural position. Atkins is a 3B (albeit not a very good one), Wiggy is a corner infielder (again, not a very good one), and Tejada has played SS his entire life until this year. They don't know what they're doing and it shows.
Garrett Atkins is terrible. He is bad at baseball. I don't know what else to say about him. Twice he came up with the bases loaded yesterday and twice he couldn't do anything. They asked him to bunt with two runners on and that didn't work out too well either (the ump did blow the call, but whatever). With each passing day I grow more angry at the Garrett Atkins signing. It makes no sense to me whatsoever.
The bullpen. I can't even talk about them. Cla Meredith and Matt Albers and Will Ohman and Jim Johnson, you know what you did. I want you to go sit in the corner and think about it for awhile and don't come back over here until you're sorry and promise to never do it again.
The base running, ugh. Wieters on 2nd base just ran into the 3B to create a double play. Look, I've never even played baseball and I know he should have stopped in the baseline. How can Matt Wieters not know that? Brady Anderson said, "Even if he stopped it's possible they'd get the double play going second to first." Maybe, but at least make them throw the ball. Don't just run into an out like that. And Nick Markakis running into the out at 2nd base in the 9th almost killed me. Markakis is normally a very smart base runner and I suppose he was trying to be aggressive to get into scoring position, but he was thrown out by a mile. And given the way the rest of the inning went, that out killed them.
My last bad thing is the pulling of Matt Wieters for a pinch runner in the 8th. I know Matt Wieters is slow, and I know Trembley was trying to get the run in. I understand his logic, but Wieters is really one of the only guys doing anything with the bat currently. This might be viewed as Monday morning quarterbacking since I wasn't in the game thread, but you'll have to trust that the second they put Lugo in for Wieters I was mad at it. And then, wouldn't you know, it comes down to Lugo with two outs in the 9th against a struggling Papelbon. How much did you want to see Wieters there? It killed me.
If the team can continue with the same batting approach tonight and cut down on the base running mistakes and get Garrett Atkins out of the lineup (hello, Rhyne Hughes!) then I think they might have a good shot tonight. It's Brian Matusz day, after all.