You forget about things over baseball's offseason. You forget things like how obnoxious Jonny Gomes is with his unbuttoned jersey. You forget things like how generally insufferable the Red Sox lineup is with their whining about every strike, seen in Thursday's game when Daniel Nava struck out looking in the sixth inning. Nava tossed his bat towards the dugout and began trotting towards first on two separate pitches - including the strikeout pitch, a knee-high fastball over the middle of the plate. What a punk.
Apparently, if you're the Orioles, you forget how to play defense. The game was marked with bumbling play by the team in the field. One Red Sox run scored on a cheapo opposite field hit by David Ortiz. Nelson Cruz made an ill-advised dive for the ball that he had no chance of catching, allowing Jackie Bradley Jr. to motor around to score from first when the ball got past him.
Another run scored later in the game when Bradley laced a sharp single to center and Adam Jones made a poor throw in towards the plate, allowing Will Middlebrooks to score from second. He might have had the runner in spite of the poor throw, but Chris Davis came in from nowhere to attempt to cut off the ball. He couldn't even do that; it glanced off his glove. That's two runs as a direct result of defensive chicanery, either of which could have been prevented by a better play. The Orioles lost the game by a run.
All of that added up to a game that looks a whole lot worse on paper for O's starter Wei-Yin Chen than it actually seemed. If you only see in the box score that he gave up four runs on twelve hits in 5.2 innings, that looks bad. They were mostly cheap hits. Cheap hits still count, of course, but they feel like hits that, on another, luckier night - or a better-positioned one - will be outs. It wasn't a lucky night for Chen. It wasn't a bad one either. He struck out five and walked none.
The Orioles offense facing off against Boston starter Felix Doubront did not have the same luck. As a lefty, Doubront is already a challenge for much of the lineup. He looked wild and they bailed him out repeatedly by hacking at some garbage. Isn't that the story of their lives? Not even Jones working a walk was enough to stem the tide.
In the fourth inning, Davis missed a home run to deep center by a foot, ending up with a double instead. He ended up scoring on a Wieters double to right-center that also hit the fence. Wieters, scoredon a Delmon Young single off the scoreboard in right, not far off from a home run. Later, in the sixth, Jones missed a game-tying home run by a foot, with the ball being scorched but just foul. Ah, but we can't forget The Mighty Ducks - a foot the other way and it wouldn't have even been close.
For all that they struggle with plate discipline, they even managed to chase Doubront after only 5.1 innings pitched. He struck out four and walked one, allowing six hits and three runs. Doubront had only thrown 76 pitches, but with a fresh bullpen, Red Sox manager John Farrell had seen enough and brought on Brandon Workman, who pulled a Luis Ayala by allowing an inherited runner to score but nothing more. The run scored on a wild pitch as Young walked.
Can we say that they deserved to win this game instead of the Red Sox? Probably not. For one, deserve got nothin' to do with it. For two, they probably didn't deserve to win it anyway. They only got seven hits and they've only scored seven runs in the three games of this opening series. The O's are expected to have a robust offense. It has not been on display in these first games of the season, with the challenges they will face - particularly, lack of plate discipline - rearing their heads instead.
One last thing that it's easy to forget over the offseason is that, while every game counts, not every loss is the end of the world. You win some and you lose some, and sometimes you look bad in losing and it's not the end of the world. It's just a bad night.
Thursday, the O's had a bad night, an impatient night at the plate that was full of shoddy defense, and they still only lost by a run against the defending World Series champions. That's bad. It feels worse because it's the third game of the season and now they've lost two of them and that's all we can think about when we think of Orioles baseball in 2014. It could be worse. If they keep looking like this, it will be worse. Right now it's just starting off the season with a slump.
There were bright spots in the loss. There usually are. Taking consolation in those too often is loser talk, but you can spin it optimistically, too: it's a sign of things that will be going well when the rest of the team turns it around. Wieters had a three hit night, including the RBI double. Wieters getting hits to all fields is a good sign. So is Zach Britton looking pretty good pitching two scoreless innings of relief for the second time in three games.
The rest of it wasn't so good. The Orioles don't have to see these guys again for a while.
Time to hit the road for a strange Friday afternoon game against Detroit. First pitch is scheduled for 1:08, although the weather reports seem to be ominous for the chances of playing the game. If they're to believed, we may be headed towards a doubleheader on Saturday. Miguel Gonzalez is the scheduled starter for the Orioles, to be opposed by Anibal Sanchez of the Tigers. Sanchez came in fourth place in the Cy Young voting last season, just the thing to cure what ails the bats early in the season.