The Baltimore Orioles dropped a series opening game with the Detroit Tigers 4-1 Monday night at Oriole Park. The battery of Bud Norris and Steve Clevenger provided just about the only power the Birds could muster, and it wasn’t enough.
Norris pitched a very good game. He was one out away from finishing eight innings and giving up only two runs. But a two-out homer by Ian Kinsler took the Tigers’ 2-1 lead up to 4-1 and set up Torii Hunter to be drilled with the next pitch. Hunter was miffed, benches cleared, Norris got tossed, colorful words were shared, names were stricken from Christmas card lists … but the score remained the same.
New reliever Preston Guilmet came on and faced nothing less than Miguel Cabrera for his first batter, getting him to ground into a force out, while also putting down the Tigers in order in the ninth inning. Guilmet had some nasty looking stuff and on first appearance would seem to be a good acquisition.
The Baltimore Orioles actually outhit the Tigers in this game 6-5, but never got a hit with a runner in scoring position. Clevenger would tally one-half of the Orioles’ hits, driving in a run with one of his two doubles. Nick Markakis had his hitting streak come to an end.
For Clevenger in his 15th game of the season, his doubles total now is eight. If he could sustain that pace over a full season, he would get 84 doubles and break the all-time record of 67 – set in 1933 by Earl Webb of the Red Sox. While looking up that isolated piece of information, it was interesting to see that Brian Roberts is actually 13th on that MLB all-time list with his 56 doubles in 2009.
Face it, you can’t get information like this on just any Orioles blog!
Going back to Norris – which is what Torii Hunter would like to do – I like this guy a lot more than I did a few hours ago. I like that he pitched a very good game – good enough to win most nights and better than the stats would indicate. Even the home run by Kinsler was hit on a pitch that was up and in … not really something floating over the heart of the plate.
Did he hit Hunter intentionally? Maybe. Or maybe it was just to back him off the plate a bit, and the bit was too big. Is that so bad? No. Is Torii Hunter justified in getting angry? Yes, probably. Hey, it’s baseball and is a part of the game. I like the passions on both sides.
I’ll say this too: This Detroit Tigers team is really a strong outfit. There is a reason they’ve got the best record in the AL right now. With that pitching, complemented with a really good lineup, they are in my mind the best team in the league.
But if the Baltimore Orioles desire to be the best in the game, they have got to beat the best teams, and tonight is the best time to do that.
The Tigers will start 24-year-old Drew Smyly. In four starts and six games this year he is 2-2 with a 2.96 ERA. In his last two starts, Smyly shut out Kansas City over seven innings on two hits, but then was beaten most recently by the Astros. He did gain the Tigers’ win over the Orioles back on April 4th by going three innings and giving up only a hit and a walk. Few Orioles have seen him more than once or twice.
The Orioles will look to Ubaldo Jimenez for more proof that the problems of April are a thing of the past for him. He has won his last two starts while giving up only one run on 10 hits in 12.2 innings. But the more telling number is only three walks over that time. In his first five games Jimenez gave up 17 passes in 27.1 innings. The stuff is great; controlled command is the key to success or failure.
Jimenez did not pitch against the Tigers at the beginning of the season. Over his career, he has a record of 5-9 against Detroit with a 5.32 ERA in 16 starts. He has given up 100 hits and 40 walks in 89.2 innings … ugh, not good.
Against Jimenez, Miguel Cabrera is not surprisingly 14-for-41 (.341), though with only one homer. Victor Martinez is 7-for-21 with three homers, Austin Jackson is the same though with only one homer, Torii Hunter is 7-for-18 with no homers, and Ian Kinsler is 4-for-14.
Jimenez had better bring his “A” game. It would also be helpful to see some more runs scored.