One of those things that "everyone" seems to know is that after facing a knuckleball pitcher, hitters swings are out of whack for several days. I make no judgment on the truth of the statement. I only know that I heard Mike Bordick say it several times on the MASN broadcast of last night's game and it's been mentioned by others in the Orioles official commentariat as well.
It's entirely possible that the Orioles could be futile offensively tonight for reasons that have nothing to do with being thrown off by R.A. Dickey's knuckleballing talents. They will be going up against Johan Santana, he of the foul-that-was-really-fair no-hitter that still counted to end the Mets franchise no-hitter drought. Santana does not suck, although if you want a reason for a little optimism, you might note that after no-hitting St. Louis he's gone on to give up 10 ER in 10 IP over two combined games against AL teams.
On the other hand, if you're looking for a reason to duck for cover behind your couch, there's the fact that Santana has thrown nearly 2,000 innings in his MLB career, and has nearly a strikeout per inning - a pace he's exceeding in his age 33 season with 79 K in 78 IP. The Orioles, of course, remain the leaders in the league for strikeouts on offense. Whenever Houston or Milwaukee starts to threaten that lead, the O's rip off 13 Ks to stay ahead.
A second reason to take shelter is that Tommy Hunter is starting. Look... he's not a good pitcher. We all know this. He's taken it to new levels this year with 17 home runs in 71 innings - approaching 2011 Matusz levels. Working in Hunter's favor here is that he's pitching against a team that's hit only 54 home runs, a full 35 less than the Orioles. Perhaps also working in his favor is that he'll be pitching in a stadium that was playing so homer-unfriendly that the team had to move the fences in, and it may still be homer-unfriendly even with the fences moved in. Unfortunately for Hunter, we saw last night that it only takes one mistake pitch for even a crappy hitter like Ike Davis to launch one to deep center, and Hunter in 2012 has made a lot of mistakes.
If they can manage to muster some offense against Santana tonight and get a win, the Orioles would preserve their chances of winning a fifth straight series. Sure, it's a big if, but it could happen. By the way, the Orioles' record after 67 games last year was 31-36. I'll take an eight game improvement - though by now I'm hoping for bigger things by the end of the season than just eight games better (which would be 77 wins). I suspect you're hoping for better too.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||NEW YORK METS|
|Brian Roberts - 2B||Kirk Nieuwenhuis - CF|
|J.J. Hardy - SS||Jordany Valdespin - LF|
|Adam Jones - CF||David Wright - 3B|
|Matt Wieters - C||Lucas Duda - RF|
|Mark Reynolds - 1B||Ike Davis - 1B|
|Steve Pearce - RF||David Murphy - 2B|
|Steve Tolleson - LF||Omar Quintanilla - SS|
|Robert Andino - 3B||Josh Thole - C|
|Tommy Hunter - P||Johan Santana - P|