Dylan Bundy actually had a better start for the Baltimore Orioles last night in Anaheim – as opposed to his previous start. Bundy’s line: 4.1 IP, 7 H, 7 R (5 earned), 1 BB, 4 K. Bundy was pitching-to-contact all night. And the issue of course was that Anaheim hitters were making contact. Starting with first inning solo homers by Trout and Pujols. This on the heels of a Manny Machado sac fly-RBI which gave the O’s a 1-0 lead in the first.
The job of a starter is to put his team in a position to win. Bundy didn’t necessarily do that last night, however even his three homers surrendered aren’t what killed the O’s last night. It was small mistakes here and there. If you look at the final stat line I posted for Bundy above, you’ll notice that includes two unearned runs. Those made a difference.
Ohtani reached in the fourth on a fielding error by Chris Davis. (Who for the record, later atoned for his mistake with a diving stop of a grounder bound for the right field corner.) Ohtani was doubled home by Simmons, who went to third base on a Machado throwing error. Simmons would later score on the aforementioned grounder that was stopped by Davis – it yielded a run, but it saved the Orioles a further base runner. (Point being that even when he looks fallible, Davis is still an asset in the field.)
Those were two runs that didn’t help matters. Meanwhile the Orioles couldn’t seem to convert any opportunities (such as walks or base hits) into runs. In the fifth they had runners at the corners, and ended up with a strikeout and a GIDP. It’s moments like that which matter in games. If you take away the unearned runs presuming the errors don’t occur and the O’s plate even one run in that fifth inning sequence, that’s two runs saved and one gained – for a total of three runs.
Later in that fifth inning Upton’s two-run homer would chase Bundy from the game, but Anaheim would keep the pressure on. When the smoke cleared, they had totaled ten runs. Add on a Machado RBI-ground out in the eighth, and you have the Birds trailing 10-2 going to the ninth inning.
But keep in mind what I said above. If the O’s can plate a run in a golden opportunity in the fifth and the aforementioned errors don’t happen, it’s 8-3. Oriole bats came alive in the ninth inning, and actually made a run of things. Not a true run because of how far behind they were, but they put up a very respectable inning.
Chris Davis’ RBI-single cut the lead to 10-3, leaving the bases loaded and nobody out. Jace Peterson‘s bases-clearing triple cranked up the heat a bit, cutting the Anaheim lead to 10-6. Trey Mancini would add a sac fly-RBI before it was said and done, leaving the Birds with a 10-7 loss. Ultimately it doesn’t matter if you lose by three or eight – you still lose.
But again think back to the opportunities squandered and the run-yielding errors. Removing those things, all things being equal the game is tied at eight and it goes to extra innings. Heck, if the O’s are able to score both runners in that fifth inning sequence, they’d have the lead going to the last of the ninth.
The Orioles have always been a big picture type of team. They’ve always looked at it from the perspective that little things can be let go if you’re able to overcome them later. But at this point in time, the Birds aren’t able to overcome them. That’s why Simmons’ run-scoring double mentioned above didn’t find Trey Mancini’s glove despite his best efforts. And that’s why similarly hit balls find the gloves of opposing players. They’re looking to make those small plays that don’t show up in the box score…
…and perhaps the Orioles aren’t. You can excuse an error because you have a shot at getting the guy out a moment later with a ground ball double-play. But that’s not happening – instead either the next hitter is reaching on a base hit, or he blows down the line and is called safe at first base (staying out of the double-play).
The Orioles aren’t looking for that base hit with a runner on third, or even for a walk. They’re looking for the big blow. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but opposing teams are taking advantage of their aggressiveness. Whereas the O’s are sitting on fastballs, pitchers are throwing pitches that look like fastballs – and which eventually sweep low-and-away, or have the bottoms fall out from underneath them. These things need to change if the Orioles are going to improve this season.
The series in Anaheim concludes this evening from Angels stadium. Chris Tillman gets the start for the Birds, and he’ll be opposed by Anaheim’s Jamie Barria – who’s going to be called up from triple-A to make the start. (What could go wrong there?) Game time is set for just after 10 PM.