Has anyone ever considered that Brett Lawrie may in fact be a vampire? The question has been bothering me all series, as Lawrie for some reason chooses to wear a mouth guard that he keeps popping out of his mouth to make it look like he has fangs. The Orioles forgot to bring out their garlic and holy water on Sunday afternoon as they lost to the White Sox, 7-1.
Actually, Lawrie was hardly the biggest reason that the White Sox picked up the series split in the finale. He only scored their first run, breaking a scoreless tie in the fourth inning by hitting a solo home run. The truth is I just find his face annoying, and his success against the Orioles perplexing. Lawrie has played against the Orioles in 58 of his 520 career games (12%) yet he has 14 of 63 career home runs (22%) against the O's.
The real reason the Orioles lost today, or at least the biggest one, was Ubaldo Jimenez. Who could have seen that coming, right? Ubaldo was OK for about four innings, Lawrie's home run notwithstanding, although Jimenez was bailed out by a couple of great plays made by his defense. Then in the fifth inning, as is the modern day Oriole Way, he suddenly became unable to throw strikes.
We have seen this story before. We will see it again. Jimenez faced nine batters in the fifth inning. Two were hit by pitches and another was walked. Then, since everyone knew Jimenez couldn't throw strikes, they were sitting on pitches in the zone and made the most out of them. He also gave up five hits and was briefly spared a worse outcome when Nolan Reimold made a great play to throw out a runner at the plate.
Pitchers who just can't get out of innings
Jimenez could not complete the inning. It's not a new problem for Jimenez or anyone else on the staff. Early in the game, MASN put up a graphic showing the seven pitchers in MLB who have averaged the most pitches thrown per inning. Three Orioles starters, including Jimenez, were on the list.
The final line on Jimenez was six runs on seven hits and four walks in 4.2 innings. With 84 pitches thrown, that pitches per inning number did not improve today.
It would have been nice for Jimenez to pitch better if only because the O's need him to have good games, but that wouldn't have done much to help the O's win today, not when they were going up against White Sox starter Chris Sale, who has been dominant so far this season.
Though Sale only gave up a run in today's game, he was far from his best results. The Orioles hitters did well to escalate his pitch count so that Sale was removed after 5.1 innings pitched with 112 pitches thrown. They were appropriately patient on occasions, drawing four walks, and they had some chances to score on which they simply could not capitalize.
Sale ended the day with the same ERA he started it. That is a 1.66 ERA. That is good. He is now 6-0 in six starts, also good, with 43.1 innings pitched in six starts. Yes, that's good too. What's it like to have a starter who averages more than seven innings per start? Orioles fans may never know again.
The struggle to capitalize on chances
A particularly pathetic inning was the third inning, when Joey Rickard and Manny Machado began the inning with back-to-back singles, putting two men on base with no one out for the heart of the order. Strong human being Mark Trumbo pulled the Jake Fox Maneuver, striking out by swinging and missing at a pitch that ended up hitting him. With one out, Adam Jones grounded into a double play. So much for that threat.
Things did not go much better for the O's in the fifth inning when Rickard and Machado each drew walks off of Sale with one out. By this point, the O's trailed 6-0, and they stayed scoreless. Trumbo struck out again, while Jones flew out to center field, again ending the threat.
With Jimenez going short, Vance Worley did the O's a solid by coming into the game and eating up multiple innings. Worley got the last out of the fifth, then pitched through the end of the eighth inning. That's thankless work. You can't even say "he kept them in the game" because they were out of the game by the time Worley came in and never got back into it.
Someone has to pitch those innings and especially with closer Zach Britton on the shelf, sparing the back end of the bullpen having to pitch in lost cause games is important. Worley did his job and then some today.
One guy who didn't do so well at his job was Brian Matusz, who worked the ninth and loaded the bases before he retired any White Sox hitters. That he escaped the inning with "only" one run allowed is at least something, and it's not like the run really mattered anyway.
The O's offense got their lone run of the game in the sixth inning when Reimold drove in Davis on a single. Machado reached base three times and never crossed the plate. In all, they left 12 men on base and went only 1-9 with runners in scoring position.
Last night's game saw the Orioles lose and also lose Zach Britton in the process. J.J. Hardy left today's game early after fouling a ball off of his foot. Hopefully all he needs is Monday's day off to be back in playing shape. The substitution saw Machado slide over to shortstop while Pedro Alvarez took Hardy's spot in the lineup and played third base.
Next up for the O's will be their first series of the year against the Yankees, who will come to Baltimore to start a three game set on Tuesday night. Chris Tillman is scheduled to start the 7:05 opener for the O's, with Luis Severino set to go for those New York boys who come too far south for their own good.