Jun 16, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles first baseman Steve Pearce (28) breaks his bat after he hit during the eighth inning at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Orioles Lose Game of Inches, and Matt Wieters

It is always said that baseball is a game of inches, and various plays for the Orioles in their 5-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays illustrated this truth on Monday night.

After falling behind 3-0, but then recovering to tie the game at 3-3, the Orioles had a chance in the top of the eighth inning to break into the lead. Nelson Cruz had just tied the game with a bases-loaded Baltimore chop single, and Steve Pearce came in to pinch hit for David Lough. His line drive into the left-field corner went foul by inches before hopping over the wall. That would have been two runs and I’d be writing about something different today – probably how clutch Peace is.

And of course, every at-bat involves inches. Brian Matusz, who has been so good at stranding inherited runners, came on in the bottom of the eighth inning; and facing that power threat Jerry Sands, Matusz allowed a fastball too far over the plate. It of course went too far over the wall, scoring O’Day’s leadoff walk and providing the eventual margin of victory. Delmon Young continued to add to the his case for getting more playing time by homering in the ninth as a pinch hitter.

It is sort of anti-climatic to finally get the news that Matt Wieters is out for the season and having Tommy John surgery on the day this article is posting (June 17).  It is interesting to read how the recovery for a non-pitcher is shorter, which makes sense I guess. 

Without Wieters in the lineup at all the O’s are 19-24.

So just how valuable is Wieters to the Orioles? This may not be the whole story, but the fact is that they were 12-10 in games with Wieters as catcher, and they were 4-0 with him at DH. Without him in the lineup at all the O’s are 19-24. It is sad that this happened after Matt had his best start ever in any season of his career.

I was very interested in seeing Caleb Joseph getting a chance at last to make the majors and play. But it was pretty clear that the Orioles organization did not really believe that he could handle the defensive side of things sufficiently. But as just one more evidence of 2014 being an entirely upside-down season, Joseph has played great defense but looks often over-powered at the plate.

But Joseph is not the only O’s player looking overpowered and over-matched. Honestly, Chris Davis does in many at-bats. Frequently the ball is past him when he is swinging. In the spirit of the late Tony Gwynn – the most amazing hitting machine you’d just about ever see (for those of you not old enough to remember) – he used a light bat to have total control and place the ball wherever he desired. Perhaps the time has come for Davis to drop a few ounces in his bat selection in order to have greater control.

And could someone please tell J.J. Hardy to get up on the plate a bit more? He doesn’t cover the outside well and is often beaten on the corners of the zone.

And again, in more “other news,” Clay Rapada is back with the organization and will report to AAA Norfolk. I don’t know what to say. If nothing else, he at least adds to the average size of Orioles pitchers.

Tonight the Orioles will see the return of Miguel Gonzalez after a short time on the DL. There have been eight consecutive quality starts by O’s pitchers. Can he keep it going?

The Orioles will be facing their old “friend” – Mr. Personality himself, Eric Bedard. He is 3-4 with a 3.55 ERA. His seasonal game log looks a bit like Chris Tillman, in that he either has it together for a game or he gets hit pretty hard. Three of the last four games have been of the latter variety; however, in the five games prior to that he only gave up three runs over 28 innings.

It is too painful to even imagine Bedard shutting down the Orioles and dropping them to .500, though honestly, right now that is what the Orioles essentially are – a .500 team with the untapped potential to be much, much better.

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Tags: Baltimore Orioles Matt Wieters

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