Quicksand is something that has a lot of depth. The problem is that when you experience that depth, you're dead. You are pulled under the surface, sand will fill your lungs, and you will die messily. The same concept applies to the Orioles starting pitching depth this season. Yes, they have depth. We heard all about how Norfolk would be stacked with people waiting in the wings. None of them are any good. That's why they're in Norfolk.
This is all relevant to tonight's game because the latest example of that pitching depth to come up and have a bad start is Steve Johnson, who made his 2013 debut in becoming the 9th player to start a game for the Orioles through only 37 games. Johnson was one of the surprise stories from last year's stretch run. The magic stayed in last September. He was fooling no one tonight. He could not locate pitches, gave up four walks and seven hits while pitching only four innings and giving up six runs. That's not going to cut it for long.
Johnson may not even survive on the roster for long after this recap is posted. Two straight four-inning starts will eat up the bullpen. An 8-5 loss is the result of such things.
That Johnson was so bad is unfortunate, because he pitched against Vance Worley tonight, who also was not any good. Worley was just slightly better, an impressive and sad feat when considering that Worley failed the Brian Matusz ERA Test (end a start with a lower ERA than you began) despite beginning with a 6.95 ERA. He also got the win while giving up eleven hits and five runs.
The Orioles would take a 3-0 lead before the Twins even came up to bat in the game. When you get four straight hits, including two doubles, that kind of thing can happen. Manny Machado doubled, Nick Markakis singled in the run. Then Adam Jones doubled to put men on second and third - it's a little sad Markakis didn't score, but whatever. Chris Davis plated the second run on a single, then was thrown out at second after Jones scored the third run on a Matt Wieters sacrifice fly. Perhaps the most frustrating three-run inning on the basepaths imaginable.
Unfortunately for the Orioles, Johnson had a bad third inning and a worse fourth inning. Joe Mauer drove in a run with a double and Justin Morneau later singled home Mauer in the third. In the fourth, Johnson gave up an infield single, got two outs, and this sequence happened: walk (to the #9 hitter), double (two runs score, game tied), intentional walk (to Mauer), walk, single (two runs score).
Throw strikes! You're Steve Johnson. If you can't throw strikes, there is no point to your existence on the roster, and indeed, he may not grace it for much longer if they need an extra bullpen arm for a few days with T.J. McFarland and Tommy Hunter both having thrown for over two innings in Friday night's game.
The score was 6-4 after Johnson was chased after only the four innings. The O's chipped away a little more at Worley in the sixth, starting with Ryan Flaherty being hit by a pitch. Nolan Reimold recorded a rare hit for an O's DH, putting two men on base. Flaherty advanced to third on a Nate McLouth sacrifice fly and scored on a Machado single, making the score 6-5. Manny is awesome. He had three hits on the day and is now batting .323/.363/.513.
Markakis, despite a two-hit game, is not awesome, or at least wasn't in the sixth inning, snuffing out the rally by grounding into a 4-6-3 double play. He persists in having a lower OPS than Steve Pearce.
When you have to get two innings out of Troy Patton, bad things may happen. Tonight, they did. Patton breezed through one inning, but then gave up a single to Mauer with two outs in his second inning of work. Patton then left a belt-high fastball out over the plate, and Ryan Doumit, he of the kinda-freaky totally black eyes, crushed a second-deck shot into left field. The ball was gone in a hurry, which isn't easy to pull off in Target Field. The 8-5 score after that home run would hold to the end of the game.
Mauer did the most damage to the Orioles, reaching base four times and scoring three. Morneau drove in three runs as part of a 3-4 night.
The O's were no slouches for offense either, with Markakis and Wieters also adding multi-hit nights - Wieters scored the fourth run with a solo homer. 3-10 with runners in scoring position is about where you want, but they could not get enough runs to overcome Johnson and then Patton's efforts today.
O's relievers had thrown the fourth-most innings in the AL heading into today and had to throw another four today. That is the kind of thing that will start to be a problem in a hurry. Brian Matusz and Pedro Strop each chipped in a scoreless inning,. Strop's got no place in a close game the Orioles are winning, but seems to be the ideal mop-up man for a game where things are out of hand one way or another.
Tomorrow brings the rubber game of the series, with Wei-Yin Chen of the Orioles scheduled to face off against Scott Diamond of the Twins. The game starts at 2:10 and hopefully the Orioles will win for your moms.