The Orioles honored former manager Earl Weaver with a bronze statue in the growing Garden of the Greats picnic area today. Earl popularized a formula for winning, summed up as 'Pitching, Defense, and the Three Run Homer'. One of those three elements was present today for the Orioles. The other two were absent and, unfortunately for us denizens of Birdland, on this day the current team did not exemplify the teams of sound fundamentals and timely execution that Earl managed, as the O's were blown out by the Cleveland Indians 11-5.
And, perhaps he would have. Perhaps that is, if the O's hitters didn't waste much time in making three outs. Things started off well enough with Brian Roberts drawing a lead off walk. When your leadoff man draws a BB on 5 pitches one would hope the next batter might attempt to work a count. To see if, perhaps, the pitcher is lacking his control or command this day. Instead, Avery grounded into a 3-6-3 double play on the first pitch he saw. Super. JJ Hardy would then pop out to shortstop on his second pitch. A nice, quick 8 pitch inning for Josh Tomlin. Back out on the bump with you Dana Eveland.
Did I mention that Shin Soo Choo had himself a day? Cause, he did. After Eveland managed to retire the first two hitters of the inning, Choo belted a home run to left field that just barely cleared the top of the wall. And like that the Indians were up 2-0 after 2 innings. Choo would eventually finish the day 4-5 with 3 RBIs and 4 runs scored.
Much like the 1st inning, things started off looking promising for the Birds in the home half of the 2nd. Adam Jones drove a double down the left field line to lead off. But, this being the Orioles, they managed to Oriole it all up. Tomlin worked Wilson Betemit with curveball after curveball, when Betemit nailed up directly at 1st baseman Casey Kotchman. Kotchman fired the ball to 2nd to double off Jones who had broken off the bag immediately. A Chris Davis strikeout looking later, and Tomlin had another inning of only facing three batters total. Pitch counts through 2 innings: Eveland 38, Tomlin 19.
The third inning started off in a concerning manner when Eveland hit Jason Kipnis in the head. Fortunately, Kipnis was uninjured and he took his base. Well, he took first base via the walk, then he decided to take 2nd base just because....well, because he's fast. Very fast. Dude has some wheels on him; racing slicks, no doubt. With two down and Kipnis still at 2nd base, the normally sure-handed JJ Hardy bobbled a routine grounder and allowed Shelly Duncan to reach. JJ had himself an up-and-down day in the field. Bobbling a couple of balls while also making a fantastic play on a ball hit deep into the SS-3B hole. This error did not ultimately cost anything other than a few extra pitches for Eveland, who finally managed to keep the Indians off the scoreboard for an inning. This would not be repeated until the 7th.
The Indians would put up 3 runs in the 4th (where they chased Eveland), 3 runs in the 5th, and 2 more runs in the 6th (where they chased Tommy Hunter) before Luis Ayala was able to hold them scoreless in the 7th. The O's looked like they may make a game of it after the 4th, but such hopes were short lived, and probably unrealistic anyway. 11 runs, 19 hits, 5 walks, and 2 Oriole errors made the basepaths look like a merry-go-round filled with Indians' hitters on this day. The O's pitchers just didn't have what it took to get the Indians' batters out. When Kevin Gregg is putting up the best stat line for your pitchers you know something has gone horribly, horribly wrong.
As for the O's offense, there were some encouraging signs. Chris Davis seems to have snapped out of his funk. He, to co-opt a phrase, 'Put a Plaque On It' today. 'It' being Eutaw Street, when he crushed a 3 run home run in the bottom of the 4th inning. He would finish the day 2-4, his first multi hit game since June 14th. Brian Roberts managed to draw two BBs, the first time he has done that since he returned from the D.L. Adam Jones got his batting average back to the .300 mark with a 2-4 effort. So, hopefully, the offense has shaken off it's recent collective funk and they can start putting some runs up on the scoreboard again. The addition of Jim (Mashin Taters) Thome will almost certainly help in this regard. And, quite frankly they are going to need to, because the pitching has looked dreadful of late.
With the win, the Indians assure themselves of a split at the minimum. These two go at it again tomorrow at 1:35. Justin Masterson faces off against Brian Matusz. A battle of two very similar pitchers. Each maddening in their own right.