There are ten games left to play in the regular season and two of them are today against the Blue Jays. There is potential for a one-and-a-half game swing in the standings today, depending on the outcomes of these two games for the Orioles as well as the one game New York is playing in Minnesota. Over the weekend we saw that the Orioles cannot rely on anyone else. They just gotta win, baby.
They especially need to win when matchups are favorable, as just about any matchup is going to be against Toronto. Their starter today is Henderson Alvarez, who is the latest in what seems to be a long line of starters the Orioles have been facing with an ERA approaching 5. In the case of Alvarez it's actually 4.87. Still not very good. However, the two times the Orioles saw him this year, he did fairly well, combining for 5 ER over 14 innings - both seven-inning starts all the way back in April. The Blue Jays lost both of those games despite Alvarez pitching well.
He doesn't really strike a lot of guys out, not even the Orioles when he faced them earlier this year, although his K/9 is not quite as insane as, say, Aaron Cook. A bit prone to the long ball, with 26 surrendered in 175.2 IP. All of this adds up to a game the Orioles need to win. If you want to make the playoffs, dream of a home playoff game or even the division title, you'd damn well better beat Henderson Alvarez with ten games left to play.
It is Steve, son of Dave, who will finally get a chance to start a game again in the afternoon portion of the doubleheader. We have clamored to see him get fill-in starts instead of someone like Randy Wolf (elbow discomfort, by the way) and here he is. There was finally a stretch of a few games where he didn't have to come in and clean up someone else's mistake. So now he gets to start. And well, hopefully he doesn't suck. Steve Johnson is not a power pitcher. So far he seems like he puts to the test whether, "Work fast, throw strikes, change speeds" is sufficient for a pitcher.
There are like no good hitters on Toronto, except for Edwin Encarnacion, which will help Johnson out today. On the other hand, if he pitches like crap, even an AAA lineup will beat him. True of every pitcher, of course, but let's face it, Steve probably has less margin for error.
The last time a Johnson faced Toronto in a key September game was 1989. Mark Williamson blew the game from the pen that day. We have reached the point where we don't even want to hear 1989 comparisons because those are to a team that came up just short. Feel-good story, especially 23 years later, but short is short. We have grander dreams now, and we will keep holding to them until they have slipped away. For now our grip is steady and strong.
|BALTIMORE ORIOLES||TORONTO BLUE JAYS|
|Nate McLouth - LF||Brett Lawrie - 3B|
|J.J Hardy - SS||Colby Rasmus - CF|
|Chris Davis - RF||Edwin Encarnacion - DH|
|Adam Jones - CF||Adam Lind - 1B|
|Matt Wieters - C||Rajai Davis - RF|
|Jim Thome - DH||Kelly Johnson - 2B|
|Mark Reynolds - 1B||Adeiny Hechavarria - SS|
|Ryan Flaherty - 2B||Jeff Mathis - C|
|Manny Machado - 3B||Anthony Gose - LF|