The regular season is now less than two weeks away. You want to see the Orioles looking like they're ready to play in real games. Today was not such a day. Some Orioles had themselves good games. Others, not so much. The end result was a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Blue Jays in front of a crowd of 7,285 at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota.
One Oriole who did not have a very good game was Manny Machado, who played the top of the first inning as if he was unaware of the fact that the game had actually started. Machado was chewed up by a sharp grounder off the bat of former Oriole Steve Tolleson. The ball kicked off the top of his glove and into left field. This was scored a double, a generous result for Machado.
The next batter, Kevin Pillar, hit a comebacker that starter Wei-Yin Chen fielded with a glove stab before it could get by him. That caught Tolleson out on second base and Chen initiated a rundown which ended up with Machado tagging out Tolleson. This took long enough that Pillar tried to advance to second and did so successfully when Machado tossed the ball into right field.
This was not the end of the inning, nor was it the end of Machado's struggle. Another former Oriole, Danny Valencia, hit a routine grounder that should have gone 5-3 for the final out. Once again, the ball kicked off of Machado's glove instead of the sure-handed fielding we are used to. Pillar scored on the play. This one was a no-doubt error and resulted in an unearned run for Chen.
Like you do, Machado was the leadoff batter in the bottom of the inning after that mess. He worked into a 3-2 count and then swung at what was probably ball 4, popping the ball up weakly and slamming his bat to the ground in frustration. I believe that's what the hip kids call riding the struggle bus. Manny has looked good so far in spring training, but that inning was not his best.
Chen recovered well from the first-inning tomfoolery. He pitched for five innings on the day, allowing four hits and two runs, one earned. Chen walked none and struck out one. He made one big mistake and was punished by Tolleson, who hit a solo home run like one hojillion miles out into left field. What is it with former Orioles in spring training, anyway? Maybe that's extra motivation.
For the whole game, Orioles batters only had a total of five hits. Regardless of any screwball defense that may have occurred, it's hard to win a game with only five hits and no walks. On the whole, they looked like they might as well have not even shown up against the man who lives in a van down by the river, Jays starter Daniel Norris, who pitched six innings of three-hit ball and gave up only one run while striking out seven batters. Orioles fans are probably going to regret seeing this guy a few times a year.
Nolan Reimold was the only Oriole with a multi-hit game. He beat out two infield hits, both on balls where it looked like his unexpected speed caused the defender to make a poor throw, a late throw, or both. After one of these, Reimold scored the first Orioles run all the way from first base on a Caleb Joseph double. I will now force myself to stop talking about how much I like Nolan so you don't have to hear about it for the rest of this recap.
When Chen left the game, the Orioles were only in a 2-1 hole. Chen's immediate relief was less than sharp. Ryan Webb came out of the bullpen in the sixth inning elevating everything and gave up a triple and a home run to the first two batters. It's worth noting that the triple went into the outfield in Delmon Young's direction. Even a good outfielder probably couldn't have caught the ball but at least it might have been held to a double. And anyway when you give up a home run to the next batter, Pillar in this case, the difference between a runner being on second and third isn't relevant.
The triple was hit by recent Orioles pest Munenori Kawasaki. Webb also walked a batter in his one inning of work. Not the kind of impression you want to leave as a bullpen crunch looms.
Brian Matusz pitched a scoreless seventh, striking out two batters. He looks like a brand new pitcher in spring training compared to what we saw last year.
Young brought the score back to a 4-2 deficit with a first pitch home run in the bottom of the seventh. He gives and also he takes away. The eighth inning saw another triple hit in Young's direction that might have been a double instead. That batter, Roemon Fields, scored on a sacrifice fly the very next play, so that is a bad luck run charged to Darren O'Day, who pitched the eighth.
Rule 5 pitcher Jason Garcia worked the ninth. A single sandwiched between two walks gave him a bases loaded situation, but Garcia worked out of it, helping his own cause with a clutch throw to the plate on a comebacker to just barely get the forceout.
This was not a fun game. It's good that it didn't count. Another game that doesn't count awaits tomorrow, when the O's travel to Lakeland to take on the Tigers. The game will be televised on MLB Network with Tigers broadcasters, still preferable to a game that has no TV or radio of any kind. That sort of game is coming on Friday and also next Tuesday.