Baltimore Orioles: Did a lack of situational hitting doom the Birds?
The Baltimore Orioles fell 7-2 to Anaheim this afternoon in the middle game of a three-game set. Dylan Bundy got the start, with mixed results. One could argue that Bundy out the Birds in a spot to win early, at least before the game blew up on them in the sixth inning (after Bundy had departed). Bundy’s line: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 2 K.
The O’s found themselves down early, as Pujols smacked a two-run homer in the first inning. However the Orioles tied the game back up at two almost immediately, as Dwight Smith Jr. hit a two-run shot of his own in the bottom of the inning. And Bundy settled down a bit after that, incidentally with a nice shut down inning in the second following the Smith homer.
If you watched the game or if you look at the line score, it appears that the sixth inning won the game for Anaheim. And in fact, that was certainly the big inning. But make no mistake that the seeds of this loss for the Orioles were lain in the last of the third. Yes, while the O’s were at bat.
The Birds led the inning off with two singles, giving them two on and nobody out. Rio Ruiz came to the plate, in a situation that screamed for a bunt. Ruiz, being a lefty, could have easily dragged one down the first base line, possibly even for a base hit. But more importantly that would have put two runners in scoring position, giving the O’s a shot at taking the lead, and perhaps even at a big inning. Instead, Ruiz swung away, and ended up striking out. Anaheim would later pitch out of the inning.
The O’s let them off the hook in a sense, due to either an unwillingness or a lack of an ability to bunt. Ruiz works on his bunting everyday. It was intriguing to me to watch, because Anaheim seemed to know that the situational hitting was poor for the Orioles – the first baseman played back. Basically had Ruiz gotten a bunt down, he had a golden chance to actually reach base safely.
This is part of learning and thus part of the rebuilding process. However you have to play to the scoreboard, and the Orioles didn’t really do that in that moment. A bunt and a base hit would have given them a two-run lead. Heck, a bunt and a sac fly would have given them a one-run lead. So…why swing away?
Without fail, Anaheim held the Orioles accountable almost immediately for the O’s not holding them (Anaheim) accountable. Pujols smacked a second homer, this one a solo shot. That gave them the lead, which they never surrendered. They went onto put up three in the sixth, and one more in the ninth.
You have to hold teams accountable for their mistakes. Because other teams are certainly holding the Orioles accountable. There’s no guarantee that runs would have scored back in the third had Rio Ruiz bunted. The ends could have very well been the same. But you have to think ahead in the game and ask yourself if you’ll ever have this opportunity again in the game. And for the Orioles at least, that generally isn’t happening. If they utilized situational hitting better, they’d have a better record than they do.
The series with Anaheim and the home stand conclude tomorrow at Camden Yards. John Means gets the call for the Birds, and he’ll be opposed by Anaheim’s Griffin Canning Game time is set for just after 1 PM.