Orioles 2, Giants 3: Clutch is the name of a band, not an attribute of O's hitters

Not your fault - Thearon W. Henderson

Chen pitches well, Davis dongs, but the offense falters in key spots leaving 10 on base and going 0-8 with RISP

On a day when the O's primary playoff competition, the A's and the Rays, both lose it's rather imperative for the O's to take advantage of such a rare opportunity and gain some ground by taking care of their own business. Playing a skidding Giants team would seem like a perfect set-up for the O's to do just so. And yet...

They did what they have seemingly done every time such opportunity has been afforded them previously: they lost. Was it due to the mystical dark arts of a soft-tossing lefty? Nope. Was it due to the day's starting pitcher inexplicably bringing a metaphorical gallon of gas and a pack of matches out to the mound with him? Nope. Today the culprit was the offense taking an afternoon siesta.

Wei-Yin Chen cruised through the first 5 innings, allowing but one solitary baserunner. But as the Giants began their 3rd trip through the order in the 6th they managed to solve the riddle that Chen was dealing. After a lead off single by Andres Torres, Bruce Bochy dared defy the old adage of 'if you only play for one run that's all you'll get' by having Gregor Blanco sacrifice Torres over to 2nd. And it looked as if the adage might prove accurate as Marco Scutaro drove in Torres with a single to left-center to tie the game at 1 apiece before Joaquin Arias lined out. So with two down and a man on first it looked like Chen might slip the noose and get out of the inning with a quite low pitch count, setting himself up to be able to go 7 or possibly more innings. But Brandon Belt would have none of it as he drove the first pitch of the at-bat to deep center where it bounced over the wall for a ground rule Double. This brought could-have-been-an-Oriole Buster Posey (Seriously! Why would the O's have ever dreamt of drafting him rather than Brian Matusz? They already had Matt Wieters!) to the dish with runners at 2nd and 3rd. With 1st base open an Intentional Walk to one of the best hitters in all of baseball seems a prudent course of action. And so this is what Buck ordered, preferring to have Chen face Hunter Pence, who was 0-2 so far on the day. Well, when the bases are juiced it behooves a pitcher to not fall behind in the count. Chen fell behind in the count, 2-1. Pence proceeds to slap the next pitch down the right field line, where it lands just fair for a 2 run Double. 3-1 Giants now. A deficit for the Birds, certainly. But nothing even remotely daunting for an offense which has scored the 4th most runs in all of MLB. Right? Right? Oh...

The script for this game was written in the 2nd inning. After an Adam Jones swinging strike out to lead off the inning, the O's managed to load the bases via a Single and 2 walks. This brought Taylor Teagarden to the plate. Tea has had his share of rather clutch hits during his tenure with the Birds. But today was one for the low-light reel, not the highlight reel as he K'd feebly on a down and away breaking ball. This left Chen to try and do his own dirty work. Chen had a grand total of 4 plate appearances in his MLB career prior to today. He was and unsurprising 0-3, with 1 Sac Bunt. For some further perspective, in 2011 with Chunichi in the NPL, Chen stepped up to the plate 48 times. He went 1-44, with 3 Sac Bunts and 1 Walk. After somehow getting ahead 3-0 in the count he took two strike calls before grounding back to the pitcher to end the O's scoring threat. Gah. Oh, but wait! There's more!

Remember the aforementioned 6th inning? Well, the O's had their own threat going in the top half of the inning. They had managed to dig into the bullpen after chasing starter Chad Gaudin who managed to hold the O's to just 1 run through 5 innings. Adam Jones lead off the 6th with a Single, and was followed by a Single from Nick Markakis. 1st and 2nd, none out! Let's get some runs, lads! Or not. A JJ Hardy flyout was followed by a Ryan Flaherty flarhtout which was in turn followed by another Taylor Teagarden strikeout. Tea was good for a -.132 WPA on the day. Amazingly that was only the 2nd worst WPA on day amongst the hitters: Manny Machado ought pay a fine in Kangaroo Court for his -.172 performance. oof.

The highlight of the day for the O's was a mammoth Home Run by Chris Davis to lead off the 8th, his Major League leading 42nd of the season. Thor took a hack mighty enough to fell a sequoia with one blow. Somewhat shockingly, the ball did not vaporize upon contact with Mjölnir. But instead returned to Earth orbit and crash landed somewhere near the base of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. This cut the Giants lead to 3-2. And when the O's followed this by getting runners to 1st and 2nd with one out, it seemed the O's would certainly tie the game, at a minimum. Nope. Back-to-back strikeouts by Ryan Flaherty and Matt Wieters (each at-bat would see the hitter get to a 2-1 count before letting the pitcher regain control) ended the inning not with a bang, but with a whimper. C'est la vie. Onto the rubber match of the series, tomorrow at 4:05 Eastern.

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