Kansas City Royals 3, Baltimore Orioles 2: Bruce Chen stifles the O's offense, win streak ends at five games

This picture makes me happy, unlike the results of the game. - Jamie Squire

The Orioles were shut down by Bruce Chen and fell short in their ninth inning rally.

Tonight's baseball game had a very close result, but for those of us watching, we know that it could have easily been a blowout by the Royals. Starting pitcher Jason Hammel pitched the one of the most awful six-inning, three-run games I've ever seen. And on the other side of the ball, lefty Bruce Chen soft tossed his way to victory. A ninth-inning rally was cut short and the Orioles win streak came to an end at five.

There is a term in baseball that gets referenced regularly: quality start. It means a start of at least six innings in which the pitcher gives up three or less runs. It was coined by a sportswriter in the 1980s and somehow is still around and used as a way to describe a game that wasn't that awful. Keep in mind that three runs in six innings is a 4.50 ERA, so while it might keep the team in the game, it's not necessarily good to have a quality start. Jason Hammel had a quality start tonight and as a result I'm wondering how much longer I can take watching him in the rotation.

Before I say any more, let it be known that I don't think one loss to the Royals is the end of the world. Four game sweeps are really tough no matter who the opponent (they really do need to win the next two, though). The Orioles have gotten a great run of pitching since the All Star break and I'm confident in some of those pitcher to keep the team in the thick of things. But Jason Hammel, tonight, was not a good pitcher. Let's take a look at the grisly details:

  • In four of his six innings, Hammel allowed the leadoff batter to reach base. In two of THOSE innings, he allowed the first three batters to reach without recording an out.
  • In the first inning he was saved from a bigger rally by a double play ball. In the second inning, the third out was a line drive right to Chris Davis.
  • He needed two hard-hit line drives to infielders to keep the damage to one run in the third inning.
  • He walked four batters in six innings. Combine that with ten hits and you're looking at a 2.333 WHIP.
  • In the sixth inning he allowed three stolen bases. It didn't even look like he was paying attention to the runners, who got such big jumps that twice there was no throw.
Still, even with his troubles, the Orioles somehow found themselves in the game, score-wise. We joked before the game that Bruce Chen would shut down the Orioles and though we hoped it wouldn't happen, we know that sometimes even this good hitting team can't solve a guy like that. I don't know why. I guess it doesn't matter.

Chen did shut them down, allowing just one run on a solo homer by Manny Machado. He gave up just two other hits, both singles. He didn't walk a batter and he struck out four. That, friends, is a quality start. Chen's fastball averages 86 mph, by the way.

It was only Chen's second start of the year (he's mostly a bullpen guy, just to add insult to injury), and he came out of the game after six innings. When Chris Davis reached on an error, it was the O's first baserunner since Machado's homer in the third inning.

Greg Holland came in to shut the door against the Orioles in the ninth and he did, but first the Orioles had to tease us a little. Nick Markakis led off with a single, then Adam Jones hit a triple to deep center field. Markakis scored and the Orioles had the tying run at third base with no outs. Chris Davis just needed to hit a deep fly ball, or a ground ball to second, or something. Instead he struck out and looked just terrible doing it. His first swing looked like he was desperate to hit a homer, and if there's one thing I know about Chris Davis it's that when he is hitting lots of homers, he doesn't look like he's trying to do it. The pitch that Davis struck out on was just stupid. Don't get me wrong, Holland has nasty stuff, but Davis was just flailing. Here is that last pitch:

Davisoops_medium

After that sad display, it was up to J.J. Hardy or Henry Urrutia to bring Adam home. J.J. at least made contact, but it was a chopper to third base that couldn't bring in the run. And poor Urrutia was just a bit over matched as he grounded out to first to end the game.

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