Friday, April 25, 2008

Die Hard

It's been 10 days since the Bad Oriole returned to the nest with a worm in its beak, so I've got a lot to cover in this blog post. Open wide!

First and foremost, the Orioles have to be commended for their "never say die" spirit. Last night, after being down 5-0 early to the Seattle Mariners, the Orioles battled back yet again, and won the game 8-7.

They're 7-1 in one run games and have 9 comeback wins so far.

Since my last post, the O's have split 2-game series' with the Blue Jays, the White Sox, and took 2 of 3 from both the Yankees and the Mariners.

They now sit at 13-9, 1 game back of the first place Boston Red Sox, as they enter into a 4-game series with the first place Chicago White Sox.

The starting pitching has improved. Daniel Cabrera threw one of the best games of his career on Wednesday night, going 8 IP, allowing 2 ER, striking out 5 and wait for it..... walking zero.

Don't look now, but Cabrera has strung together 3 great starts, in which he has gone at least 6 IP and allowed 2 ER or less. His walks are now decreasing and it finally looks like he could be coming into his own.

On the flip-side, Adam Loewen took the hill last night, and got hit hard, only lasting 2.2 IP before being taken out. The bad news, Loewen complained of pain in his arm, and is now on the 15-day DL. It appears likely that Loewen is headed for another long-term shutdown, one that could end his season, again.

The good news is that the bullpen kept the Orioles in a game that was seemingly out of hand, allowing them to mount a huge comeback for the win. And on top of that, there are at least 4 pitchers either on the Orioles or down on the farm who are very deserving of taking Adam Loewen's spot in the rotation.

Other positives: Randor Bierd has been an anchor in the bullpen, eating innings like they are cupcakes. He's pitched 12.1 innings so far and has yet to allow an ER.

George "the Sheriff" Sherrill is 8 for 8 in save opportunities, and got another one last night, making that 5 against his former team. Think Seattle misses him much?

The Mariners are sure to also be missing Adam Jones, who had 3 RBI last night, and has raised his average to .270. Not to mention, his defense in CF is improving by the day.

Nick Markakis is blistering hot, with a .995 OPS. He's not getting much to hit in the #3 hole with a slumping Kevin Millar behind him, and being pitched around has raised his OBP to a whopping .468, but he's crushing everything that's in the strike zone.

Luke Scott has cooled down after he kicked his way through the gate, guns blazing, but his .878 OPS is still 70 points higher than the next man. He's also making up for his lack of HR's with doubles. He leads the team with 9.

And even though the offense is starting to cool down overall, they are at least getting hits and scoring runs when they need to, as they did last night.

One thing that is frustrating, however, is the questionable roster moves the Orioles keep making.

When the O's sent Adam Loewen to the DL, they called up middle-infielder Eider Torres, creating the redundant trifecta of weak hitting middle-infielders currently made up of Luis Hernandez and Brandon Fahey.

Torres was hitting well so far this season in Norfolk (.338 AVG, .795 OPS), but Torres should prove to be no better than Hernandez or Fahey with his career .675 MiL OPS.

One would hope that if Torres can swing a bat well, it would result in sending one of Hernandez or Fahey back to Norfolk where they belong. Alex Cintron is also in the mix, and is currently getting into baseball shape in Norfolk as well, so the trifecta could become even more crowded.

Meanwhile, Luis Terrero is hitting well (.877 OPS) and could be used as a bat off the bench late in the game.

Another head scratcher is why Greg Aquino is still taking up space in Baltimore. He's only pitched 6 innings thus far and has looked terrible in each one. Manager Dave Trembley clearly doesn't trust Aquino in close games, and for good reason. If this is the case, the Orioles should release Aquino and call up one of the impressive relievers in Norfolk.

Lance Cormier (1.15 ERA), Alberto Castillo (2.70 ERA) or Bob McCory (1.93 ERA) would fit the bill.

All in all, the Orioles are fun to watch. When it looked like they would fall into a season-ending nose dive after getting swept in a double-header by the Rangers, the battled back to play well over the last week or so.

They've got a stiff challenge ahead of them in the White Sox, who seem to be doing everything really well. Splitting the series seems like a possibility, and would be a success in my opinion.

But with the way the O's are playing, a letdown seems inevitable.

We shall see.

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