So Oriole fans, I have some good news and some bad news, but I’ll give you the veggies before the dessert. The bad news is that the Orioles had their chances against the New York Yankees but could not right the ship en route to a 3-2 series loss. The good news, well, they did have their chances against the Yankees.
Even though they lost the series, they easily could have won. They lost games one, three, and five, but could have easily won games three and five. Jim Johnson, who had been rock-solid all season, saving 51 games, blew the save during game three, and then a missed call and missed opportunities by the Baltimore offense doomed them in game five. Here is a quick run down:
Baltimore’s starting pitching was exceptional. Wei-Yin Chen, Jason Hammel, Miguel Gonzalez, and Joe Saunders were absolutely brilliant. Combined they threw 30.1 innings and allowed only seven earned runs. I do believe Webster’s defines that as solid. Miguel Gonzalez was amazing to say the least during his game-three start. He threw seven innings and allowed only one earned run on five hits while striking out eight Yankees, but O’s fans will forever remember that game thanks to Raul Ibanez from New York.
The most consistent reliever out of the bullpen was Darren O’Day, who was called upon in all but one game. O’Day threw five scoreless innings, and if Buck Showalter could have used him even more, he would have.
Offensively, Nate McLouth led all O’s in hits as he collected seven of them, and had a call go against him during game five on a deep fly ball that easily cleared the fence but curled around the foul pole and was ruled as such; after replay, it looked like it did hit the pole. With the instant replay being inconclusive, Nate lost his home run. Robert Andino also hit well, going 4 for 11 with a run.
I hate to say it, but just about every other hitter. Matt Wieters, clearly tired from playing every day after already playing 144 games during the regular season, hit .150. Mark Reynolds hit .158, while J.J. Hardy hit a paltry .136 in a lineup that sorely missed Nick Markakis.
First off, I definitely qualify for ugly after staying up late watching these games, then heading to work at the butt-crack of dawn. I felt like I had been cheating on my bed with my couch.
Besides myself, the afore-mentioned Jim Johnson qualifies here, although I do hate to say it. Johnson was a complete monster during the regular season, saving 51 games with a 2.49 ERA, but during this series, was Baltimore’s own worst enemy.
Entering a tied game in the ninth, Johnson gave up a leadoff homerun to Russell Martin. Sadly, it would get worse. Johnson gave up four more hits and four earned runs before Baltimore lost 7-2.
JJ got some revenge the following night, shutting down the Yanks for the save in a 3-2 Oriole win to tie the series, but then a blown save in game three cost the Orioles a win. Game four saw Johnson bounce back yet again as he saved the game, but by then the damage had already been done.
Johnson wasn’t the only one who struggled. Adam Jones, who was also great during the regular season, seemed to lose his way at the plate, hitting .087 during the series. When Yankee pitchers needed a strike out, they could throw a curveball in the dirt, knowing Jones would chase, tossing his plate discipline right out the window. Some of those at-bats were ugly at best.
The good news, though, is that Baltimore was right there, just a few plays or a few mental lapses away from advancing to the ALCS. Even though they lost, they should not hang their heads. They played way more baseball than most people thought this year, and have a great core to build around.
After this great season, I would just like to say thank you to the Orioles for playing their hearts out and never giving up. I’m already eagerly awaiting the start of the 2013 season.
Stay tuned as I’ll give recaps on individual players in the coming weeks.
by Andy Mindzak