Baltimore Orioles: Jorge Lopez can’t nibble, O’s fall in DC

Baltimore Orioles’ starter Jorge Lopez did a service for his team tonight. With a tired bullpen, he went five innings in tonight’s 4-2 loss in Washington. That’s huge, as the Birds needed to spare a couple of bullpen relievers tonight with a long road trip ahead. Lopez’s line: 5.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 8 K.

Unfortunately for Lopez and the O’s, Washington starter Strasburg matched him pitch-for-pitch, and out-for-out. Both starters were throwing strikes all throughout their outings. With one difference; Lopez commanded the middle of the plate. Strasburg nibbled.

In general nibbling is going to get you in trouble. However Strasburg was good at it tonight. Very good at it. And as a result, he started getting strike calls on pitches right off the plate. Lopez was throwing strikes, but in the middle of the plate. He was getting pitches by hitters. Eventually something had to give.

And eventually Washington hitters adjusted to Lopez. Schearber’s RBI-double in the last of the fifth gave Washington a 1-0 lead. They tripled it later in the inning with an RBI-singles by Harrison and Soto. Bell’s RBI-single in the eighth would give them an insurance run, and a 4-0 lead.

The O’s didn’t have many opportunities, but they did have one in the sixth. Trey Mancini hit what could have been a run-scoring double. It should have been a run-scoring double. Washington overshot the cutoff man on the relay throw, and Austin Hays had a golden opportunity to score. But he was gunned out at home plate. It isn’t often that a team can overshoot the cutoff man, and still have it work out for them.

Freddy Galvis would smack a two-run homer in the ninth to get the O’s on the board, but it was too little too late. Jorge Lopez pitched a solid game tonight in a losing effort. But he couldn’t adjust when Washington adjusted to him. And he couldn’t work the corners of the plate, while Washington lived there. Things like that can often be the difference between winning and losing.

It’s also worth mentioning how big Austin Hays being gunned out at the plate was. If he scores there, the O’s have the tying run coming to the plate in the ninth (all things being the same). Consequently, if not for that insurance run, the same applies. This game was a lot closer to being different than we might think.

The series continues tomorrow afternoon at Nationals Park. Bruce Zimmerman gets the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Washington’s Jon Lester. Game time is set for just after 4 PM.

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