June 16, 2014

Game 68: Encarnacion, Navarro's Bats Splits Series

I've been away fro the past few days but I've watched the games nonetheless.  Here's what I've been impressed with so far…Bud Norris threw another gem last night as Chris Davis' two run homer propelled the O's to their second win of the series.  Manny Machado has seemed to find the magic in his bat once again, as he's gone 5-8 his last two games, with 3 doubles in the series.  With a suspension still looming, fans are delighted to see Manny hitting the ball well, as Buck Showalter expects a two game suspension for the young third baseman.  Coming into Sunday's game, Baltimore sits 3.5 games out of first with a chance to lower it by yet another game with Chris Tillman on the hill.  Tilly pitched well in his last start, holding the Red Sox to one run over 6 innings although picking up a loss as the Orioles were shutout.

As this MASN graphic states, Orioles pitchers have been dominant in their last 6 starts, allowing an ERA of 1.13 over 30 innings of work.  Tillman got into trouble early by allowing a leadoff single to Jose Reyes, who would eventually score on a long double by Jose Bautista to give Toronto another early lead.  For Tillman, his struggles continue in the early frames, as his inability to shutdown teams from the inset has plagued his season so far.  Escaping any further damage, the Orioles offense would get to work against J.A. Happ, who's struggled lately but a left-handed pitcher that has given the O's problems in the past.  Chris Davis would get the day off today which landed Steve Pearce in the fifth spot and another appearance by Delmon Young at DH.

Tillman would once again get into a jam in the second with a leadoff double by Dioner Navarro but would work out of trouble yet again.  In the meantime, Baltimore would waste a huge opportunity in the bottom of the third as JJ Hardy led off with a double down the right field line and was followed by a Jonathon Schoop infield single, placing runners on first and second with no outs.  Nick Hundley would crush a ball to dead center, only to be caught by a backpedaling Anthony Gose, but both runners  would tag up to threaten to tie the game.  Nick Markakis' at-bat started off 3-0, only to have Happ battle back to strike him out of 8 pitches.  Machado would also be retired by strikeout, hacking at two straight pitches that were eye-level.  After the missed opportunity, Edwin Encarnacion doubled down the line to lead off the 4th and after tagging up on a Brett Lawrie fly out, Navarro would drop a bloop single into left to score Encarnacion, pushing the lead to two.  On that at-bat, Navarro caught a break as Tillman had appeared to paint the inside corner, only to be called a ball by the home plate umpire.  Naturally, Navarro would single on the next pitch.  He fought off a low pitch and sent the RBI single about 130 feet from home.

Tillman allowed leadoff batters to reach in four of the five innings to start the game, as opposed to the Orioles who squandered their big chance early but failed to get runners into scoring position.  In the fifth, Tillman allowed a single by Gose and a double by Jose Reyes to lead off the inning.  Melky Cabrera line a ball to left which scored Gose on a sac fly.  That would be the extent of the scoring in the fifth as Machado stabbed at Encarnacion's hard grounder going up the third baseline and then proceeded to gun him down at first with an impressive stretch by Steve Pearce to keep the deficit at 3.

Next inning, the O's would finally get on the board with an opportunistic two-out rally from the heart of their order.  Adam Jones doubled to keep the inning alive as Nelson Cruz would single him home to put the Orioles on the board.  For Cruz, he picked up three singles in Sunday's contest, a season high for the DH and tacked onto his league leading RBI total.  It had been a rough stretch for Nelson after that month-long tear he went on in May and it was great to see him swinging the bat well again.  The Orioles would be held scoreless until the the 8th, as Adam Jones sent his 11th homer into the left field bleachers.  Casey Janssen would then come in to nail down a 4-out save to end the game 5-2.  Dioner Navarro added another RBI with a double that scored Encarnacion, who combined to go 6-10 with 3 doubles and 2 RBI.  Orioles simply couldn't manufacture runs off of Happ and the bullpen, leading to a series split with the Jays.  With the loss, the O's drop to a still respectable 35-33, 4.5 games behind the Toronto along with the Yankees.  Tillman dropped to 5-4 this season after settling down nicely after a rough start.  He's slated to pitch next on Saturday in New York against the Yankees.

To conclude, the O's 10-game road trip ended at 5-5, a bit of a disappointment yet they didn't lose any ground in the division.  They're away this next week, with three in Tampa Bay and three in New York. Tampa, who continues to struggle at the plate, looks to regain ground in the East, sitting in dead last after a month-long slump for the entire offense.  Thankfully, Baltimore will miss David Price after pitching yesterday as Jake Odorizzi faces Wei-Yin Chen tonight. Chen is looking to become only the 10th pitcher in the AL to reach 8 wins this year.

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