The O’s momentum evaporates quickly
Manager Buck Showalter follows up just about every strong run by the Orioles with the warning that “momentum is only as good as your next starting pitcher,” but he would rather not be proved right so easily.
TheOrioles appeared to be ready to take on the world after coming back from one of their best road trips in recent memory, but they hit one of the soft spots in their starting rotation and squandered all that positive energy faster than you can say “Yovani Gallardo” in a 7-6 loss to the last-place Tampa Bay Rays before an announced 19,233 at Camden Yards.
Thelast thing just about anybody at Oriole Park wanted to see Thursday night was Gallardo walking the first two batters of the game and then serving up a first-pitch three-run home run to Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, but that’s how quickly a team can go from looking invincible to looking incomprehensible.
But that wasn’t the half of it. The Orioles erased that ugly number with four runs in the bottom of the first inning, only to watch their veteran right-hander give up three hits in the second inning and two doubles in the third to re-establish a three-run Tampa Bay lead. So let’s review: Three-run first inning. No shutdown second inning. Six runs in 31⁄ innings. And Showalter indicated that Wade Miley would probably get the start Sunday. Manny Machado shows his disappointment after lining out to left in the third inning.
Momentum is a fragile, fragile thing when your starting rotation has such a soft underbelly. All the leading indicators: Past performance obviously doesn’t mean a whole lot either. The Orioles came into the game undefeated against the Rays in their first six games at Camden Yards and — of course — have one of the best home records in all of baseball. They still have an 11-5 record in the season series against the Rays, but would rather not have things start to even out during this final homestand. Right back at ya: Apparently, Showalter’s momentumtheory also can apply to the opposing pitcher. Left-hander Blake Snell allowed first-inning singles to Adam Jones and Manny Machado, and loaded the bases with an eight-pitch walk to Mark Trumbo. The Orioles flirted with a scoreless inning when Chris Davis looked at a called third strike, but Matt Wieters dunked a two-run single to left and red-hot J.J. Hardy banged a double off the center-field fence for two more runs. Just like that, the Orioles went from three runs down to a run up in a first inning that lasted more than a half-hour. Opportunity knocks again and again: If only the Orioles could have answered in the middle innings, they wouldn’t have lost a game to the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. They had runners at first and third with one out in the fourth before Nolan Reimold grounded into a double play. They also had runners at second and third with no out in front of the heart of the lineup, but Machado struck out on three pitches, Trumbo popped out and Davis nubbed a ball back to the pitcher. The Orioles finally made good on a second-and-third no-out situation in the eighth to make it a one-run game.
But they put runners on the corners with one out in the ninth, and proceeded to leave the tying run on third when Trumbo and Davis struck out to end the game. The scoreboard watch: It was apparent from the start that the Orioles would have a good chance to move up in the standings Thursday, because Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka was pitching a gem in Boston and the Yankees quickly built an early 5-1 lead. But the Red Sox came back for a 7-5 win, moving two games ahead of the Orioles in the AL East. The best thing about Thursday night was that the wild-card-hopeful Tigers had already lost and the only teams with a chance to gain on the Orioles settled for a half-game because they didn’t play.