I have a lot of fans who write in and tweet at me saying that the Baltimore Orioles should try small ball. And perhaps it isn’t the worst idea in the world in a sense. Because it’s obvious that this year at least the power isn’t there – right? Well what we saw this afternoon and really this entire week with Boston in town should prove that small ball just doesn’t work in the AL East.
I’ve said for some time that the Orioles would get bludgeoned to death every game if they tried to win with small ball on a regular basis. The American League East has always been about power-hitting. Always, and forevermore. If you want to buy into what Tampa’s selling in the unorthodox way that they manage their pitchers and think that’s going to win games, be my guest. Once the novelty wears off and teams start recognizing how to play against it, trust me folks…it won’t work. This is the AL East.
The Orioles started Yefry Ramirez this afternoon against Boston, and while he got tagged for the loss in his big league debut I personally thought he showed a bit of promise. Ramirez’s line: 4.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 6 K. It’s only four plus innings in one start at the big league level. But he made some impressive pitches to get out of innings, and could represent a serviceable starter in the future.
Ramirez gave up a solo homer to Betts in the third inning, giving Boston a 1-0 lead. Bogaerts would add a sac fly-RBI in the fifth, and later in the inning Devers added an RBI-single. They would also get an RBI-single by Nunez, which ended up with a close play at the plate. Buck Showalter opted to challenge, which in my view was a mistake. If the runner’s foot was tagged before he touched home plate, there certainly wasn’t irrevocable video evidence.
Showalter probably felt that he had nothing to lose at that point by challenging. In fact, that came back to bite him. Schoop grounded out to end the sixth with a runner on base, and the throw was a bit errant. Replays seemed to indicate that Boston first baseman Holt didn’t hold the bag. Personally I felt that it was an open-and-shut case that would have been reversed on review. But the Orioles didn’t have a challenge to give.
Not that it mattered. Martinez would add another solo homer for Boston, and the Orioles would get on the board with a sac fly-RBI by Peterson in the last of the seventh. Peterson would later double with Sisco on first in the last of the ninth, on a play where Sisco appeared ready to score. However he slipped going around third base, and had to hold up. Again, not that it mattered. But it was that type of game, series, and season for the Orioles.
Richard Bleier left the game with an elbow problem, in a sequence that didn’t look good for the Orioles or for Bleier’s continued participation this season. The worst part from my standpoint was that there was never any doubt that Bleier was hurt and thus coming out of the game. He made no attempt to stay in the game, and all but told the Orioles’ trainers that he had to exit.
In one of the more humorous moments of the game, Boston starter Chris Sale was lifted in the last of the seventh. As he left he barked at home plate umpire Brian Knight and told him what he thought of his strike zone. Sale was immediately ejected. Not that it mattered, as he was already out – he just lost the right to watch the rest of the game from the dugout.
When you try to piecemeal one run here and there together, that’s all you’re going to get; one run. The Orioles aren’t even getting that for the most part. But as I said, small ball just doesn’t cut it in the AL East. What we saw this afternoon and in this series would be commonplace if the Orioles ever thought of re-constructing their team in the form of a Kansas City or a Milwaukee.
The only thing that’s similar with small ball and power-hitting is that you have to have guys on base for it to work. The Orioles will hit some home runs – but nobody’s on base when they do. In small ball you can have the bases loaded, and you’re still only playing for one run. But either way, you need guys on base for the system to work. But make no mistake, the AL East isn’t construed in a manner that would be kind to a true small ball team. That should have been evident through the first part of this week.