If you'd asked me three months ago if I would have been happy if the Orioles were 37-27 in the middle of June, I would have said, "Hell yeah!" I try to keep that in mind when I want to complain about a particular lost game, much as last night's game felt like a frustrating one where the O's might have beaten the Braves. I think I would have given you a 1-in-100 chance that the team would be 10 games over .500 this far into the season (or ever this year, for that matter). We are living the 1%. We have tasted a bit of winning and it's enough to remind us that losing sucks.
Buck Showalter strikes me as a "right back into the saddle" kind of manager, and perhaps that informs why tonight's lineup is exactly the same as last night's - replacing Jason Hammel into the pitcher's slot 9th in the order, of course. Double down, says Buck. Probably I am doing that sportswriter thing of trying to find a fancy reason for something when there isn't one. Braves starter Brandon Beachy is right-handed, just like last night's pitcher, Tommy Hanson, and Buck likes to keep the same lineup.
Maybe tonight we will see less grounded-into-double-plays by O's hitters. Hopefully none. They are getting ridiculous. On the other hand, we might trade one of our league-worst statistics for another - the O's hitters, leading MLB in strikeouts with 527, will be facing Beachy, who struck out 169 in 141.2 MLB innings last year. He's not quite on that pace this year, with 63 in 77.1 IP, but Beachy is still racking up an impressive campaign - a 1.98 ERA and a WHIP of 1.00. That ERA is the lowest among all pitchers in MLB with qualified innings pitched (1 IP per team game).
What's Beachy's secret? A .206 BABIP - absurdly low - may have something to do with it, but we saw in last night's game why an Atlanta pitcher might get the benefit on balls in play. Beachy is lucky, certainly. His luck may just be that he came up to the major leagues with the right organization at the right time.
Meanwhile, Hammel is coming off a start where he tied his career high in walks (5) as he gave up four earned runs in six innings against Philadelphia. In the six starts since his turn was skipped due to right knee soreness, he's only managed one quality start. In spite of all that, he's still what passes for an ace among the O's rotation, with his 3.22 ERA leading the team's starters. He gets a respectable number of strikeouts, he gets ground balls, and maybe it's not entirely his fault that his corner infielders have been guys like Wilson Betemit (3B tonight), Mark Reynolds (1B tonight) and Chris Davis (RF tonight). Davis acquitted himself well with his one big chance last night, but will the ball find him more often with a righty starter instead of a lefty?
As I often counsel around here: hold on to your butts.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||ATLANTA BRAVES|
|Brian Roberts - 2B||Michael Bourn - CF|
|J.J. Hardy - SS||Martin Prado - LF|
|Chris Davis - RF||Brian McCann - C|
|Adam Jones - CF||Dan Uggla - 2B|
|Matt Wieters - C||Jason Heyward - RF|
|Mark Reynolds - 1B||Eric Hinske - 1B|
|Wilson Betemit - 3B||Andrelton Simmons - SS|
|Steve Pearce - LF||Juan Francisco - 3B|
|Jason Hammel - P||Brandon Beachy - P|