Friday, April 15, 2011

Chickens come home to roost in loss to Yankees

You're out! Pie's sorry excuse for a slide costs the Orioles a crucial insurance run in the 8th inning that eventually lead to a stinging 6-5 loss to the Yankees.

Well, thank God for that rainout, or else the Orioles would have probably been swept in three games by the Yankees instead of just two.

Last night was one of those losses that throw fans into a meltdown on internet message boards and sports talk shows. After holding a 5-0 lead heading into the 5th inning on the back of a gutsy Jake Arrieta performance, the Yankees did what they always do -- chipped away at the lead until they entered the ninth inning trailing by one run.

They also benefited from a play at the plate in the top of the 8th inning. Joba Chamberlain was pitching with men on first and third (Pie). Chamberlain corked one in the dirt which bounced to the backstop and back again, allowing Yankees catcher Russel Martin to flip the ball to Chamberlain who was covering the plate in a way that deterred Pie from sliding. Instead, Pie awkwardly dragged his foot around Chamberlain and didn't get low enough. His foot missed the plate by an inch and Chamberlain was able to turn and tag Pie out.

It was a good play by Chamberlain and Pie was going to have to come up with a brilliant slide in order to be safe. He almost was. But Pie was Pie and didn't come through. I would have liked to seen Pie plow into Chamberlain, who was in the basepath (to his credit). It's time the Orioles attack the Yankees aggressively and show the world they are not going to bow down to the Yankees anymore. I know it would be impossible for Pie to process all that in a split second and make a decision based on that past history, but I think Buck should be drilling it into his players to get that run no matter what, even if it means making contact. Especially against the Yankees.

Anyway, after failing to get that crucial insurance run, Buck Showalter opted to bring in newly-signed closer, Kevin Gregg, to finish the Yankees in the bottom of the ninth, but Gregg wasted no time, allowing a first-pitch game-tying home run to the ageless Jorge Posada. It's a move that Showalter is getting criticized for and probably justifiably so. Buck had Koji Uehara warming up in the bullpen, but went with the shaky Gregg instead.

Gregg was signed for 2 years, $10 million during the offseason despite putting up some concerning stats last year as the closer for the Blue Jays. Yeah, he saved 37 games last year, but averaged 4.6 walks per 9 innings and had a 3.51 ERA. He did, however, pitch well against the Yankees last year, saving 4 games with a 1.23 ERA.

That success went out the window with just one pitch.

Gregg closed out the rest of the ninth, sending the game into extra innings. And with the Orioles scoring 5 runs, thanks in part to a Nick Markakis 2-run home run, you had the feeling that they were done for the night after the fifth inning. They went quietly in the top of the tenth and Buck brought in Michael Gonzalez who promptly lost the game.

It wasn't the best night for Buck, but I think he deserves a pass for most of it. Andy MacPhail did sign Gregg to be the closer, after all. But it's just a reminder of the shoddy work MacPhail has done at improving the bullpen. The Orioles have committed $26 million and forfeited two draft picks to sign Gregg and Gonzalez, both shaky pitchers who put too many men on in what are usually crucial times.

In the grand scheme of things, it was just one loss, but the O's are in a 4-game slide and the momentum they had with their 6-1 start is quickly evaporating. Stealing a game in Yankee stadium this early would have been huge for this team, but instead, the Orioles did what they always do, and gave the game away.


No comments: