Talking Behind Their Back: Rangers
The Orioles stand at 6-3 on the season and are nothing if not consistent.
For the first time in 11 years, Baltimore has opened the season by winning their first three series. This should be a cause for celebration given the incredibly low expectations for this team, if the Orioles could win two-thirds of their games this year that would be considered a minor miracle.
The reality is that there's simply no way this team as presently constructed will win 108 games and post a .667 winning percentage -- winning 81 games would be a victory in it of itself. This means that if the Orioles get the chance to sweep they need to cash in but instead of doing that they're getting tossed out.
The Rangers provided the O's with another chance to pull off a three-game sweep and instead of seizing the opportunity, they again took a beating, losing 19-6.
In Baltimore's three series-ending losses, the team has given up a combined 41 runs while scoring just 11 runs, for a minus-30. Conversely, in the team's six wins, the Orioles have scored 45 runs and allowed 28 for a plus-17. So what's the difference?
Well, four of the Orioles wins have come from pitchers Jeremy Guthrie and Koji Uehara, far and away the team's best two pitchers. Admittedly, Uehara's ERA (7.20) is disconcertingly high thanks to a slugfest against Texas but that will happen over the course of a season. The other two wins have come from Mark Hendrickson (against Tampa Bay) and Jim Johnson in a win that should really be given to the bullpen as a whole (against Texas).
The three losses have come on the watch of Alfredo Simon (New York), Adam Eaton (Tampa Bay) and Mark Hendrickson (who pitched well under unfortunate circumstances).
So what's the common thread? Reliever Brian Bass and faulty defense.
It's unfair to blame three blowout losses on Bass because it's truly not his fault, he's entered every game while already behind but it's not good when your three appearances are in three lob-sided affairs.
Bass may be the easy place to point the finger but really it comes down to defense.
Baseball can really be broken down into three separate facets: hitting, pitching and defense. The 2009 Orioles can hit and they can defend, the pitching is spotty. So if the Orioles can get two out of three things going they stand a chance to win or at least be competitive but if one falters they've been toast.
In two of the three losses, the Orioles have allowed a staggering nine unearned runs (seven in last night's Rangers debacle and two against the Yankees -- courtesy of a Bass miscue). In the other loss, an 11-3 decision to Tampa Bay, Adam Eaton got torched for four runs in four innings and Bass got lit up for seven over 3 1/3 innings.
Despite what Adam Jones seems to think, the Orioles offense, while impressive, can't win many games completely on it's own.
Today is an off day for the Orioles and they will probably try to recharge the batteries, shut down the engines and get back in to neutral before traveling to Boston to take on a struggling Red Sox team.
If you look at the numbers, Boston could be a panacea for the Orioles as the Red Sox rank in the lower third in several offensive categories (runs, average, RBI and strikeouts) and have gotten uneven performances from their pitching staff.
Of course it's the Red Sox so if they're going to wake up out of their funk there's a good shot it could be against the Orioles and on the weekend leading up to Patriots' Day on Monday.
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