Ryan Flaherty – Baltimore Orioles Enigma


Apr 8, 2014; Bronx, NY, USA; Baltimore Orioles second baseman Ryan Flaherty (3) rounds third base and scores a run in the fourth inning at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Orioles pulled off a significant 5-4 win last night in the get-away game of their first series in New York, giving them a series win 2-1. In 2013, the Orioles lost 2-of-3 in each of their three visits to the Big Apple. And winning a game started by the platinum-armed Masahiro Tanaka is no small prize either.

Jonathan Schoop had the biggest swing of the game with a three-run shot off Tanaka in the 2nd inning. This gave the Orioles a 3-0 lead that Miguel Gonzalez would give back by the time he was done after six innings. Tanaka made it through seven frames, giving up only the three runs on Schoop’s bomb, while striking out 10. Masahiro is good, but he is very beatable by a patient team.

The most critical of the O’s 12 hits on the evening came from Ryan Flaherty leading off the top of the 9th inning. He “went down and got” a low-outside pitch and drove it into right-center field, hustling his way into second base with a head-first slide. He would later score the go-ahead run on a Markakis single, while Schoop – who had singled in between them – would score the critical insurance run on a sac fly by Chris Davis.

The fifth run would prove to be necessary, as the Yankees – no matter who plays for them or what year it is – always put runners on in the 9th inning and often score them. On this evening, they would manage a single run in the final frame, scoring only the leadoff double by Alphonso Soriano.

The most critical pitching performance by the Orioles was that of Brian Matusz, who came on in the bottom of the 8th inning with a Yankees runner at third base and one out. He induced a pop-up out from the tough Jacoby Ellsbury, and after an intentional walk of Carlos Beltran got Brian McCann to fly out easily to center fielder Adam Jones. Matusz got the official win – very good!

Tommy Hunter got the official save – oh boy! I don’t have a lot of confidence in this Tommy Hunter as closer situation, though, there aren’t many pitchers anywhere who would make me feel confident in 9th innings (but still wish the O’s would have gotten Koji Uehara before last year.) But at the same time, I’m not wishing for Jim Johnson back. Right now his ERA is 18.90 in 5 games for the A’s, where he has an 0-2 record, having given up 9 hits and 6 BB in only 3.1 innings. His WHIP is 4.50, which I did not think was humanly possible. Opponents are hitting .529. Yes, it is early.

Again, looking back to Ryan Flaherty – it was a foregone conclusion throughout the offseason that he would be the regular Orioles second baseman. I was amazed at the popular support for him by O’s fans. And I’ve therefore been amazed equally, though probably should not be, at how quickly the fanbase turned on him with his terribly slow start to this season (discounting these past two games). I am not “down” on Flaherty. I think he is a plus defender, but over the long-haul is a less than sufficient offensive threat. He has some nice power and is a terrific extra bench player because of his defensive versatility. That is how I see him eventually for the Orioles – the super utility man, who could maybe be the best in the league for that role.

One more paragraph of thoughts, observations and opinions – Miguel Gonzalez will get credit for a quality start tonight. To get a quality start, all you need to be is a 4.50 ERA pitcher … which by definition is a guy who can keep you in the game long enough to give your team a shot to win. And that is what he did tonight. It could have been worse; the game could have gotten away from him completely after giving up two solo homers in the 2nd inning and ultimately blowing a 3-0 lead. But one of the most respectable things about Gonzalez is his calm but fierce competitiveness. He does not have high-end talent; he is getting the most out of what he has to give … gotta love and respect that. Honestly, his fastball was not good tonight. It is not good enough on any night to get away with any mistakes in the heart of the plate. There is no margin for error. He commanded it a bit better as the game went on, but more than that, he mixed in more off-speed pitches. There were not enough earlier in the contest, and the Yankees were sitting on his (frankly speaking) sub-par fastball. His last pitch of the game was his best – he froze Soriano on a crisp breaking pitch. And that is what Gonzalez must do to remain a part of this rotation.

All in all, any win over the Yankees is sweet. There is no game today, as the Orioles have managed to win three of the past four games and pull out of their early-season 1-4 tail-spin. Toronto comes to town for a weekend series. Come back to us here at The Baltimore Wire for a preview article of the pending matchups.

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