Apr 20, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Baltimore Orioles starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez (31) pitches during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
The Baltimore Orioles blew a five-run lead with poor defense to drop an Easter Sunday evening game to the Boston Red Sox on national television. The Birds got to Jake Peavy early in the game and posted a 5-0 lead, only to see it eliminated on some bizarre defensive plays and a game-deciding Red Sox run in the bottom of the 9th inning, as Boston wins it 6-5.
I hate being right about some things, especially when it is something negative about the Orioles. But you can look back to my preview of this game where I wrote the following …
(For some reason I cannot explain, the feeling I have about this game reminds me of another holiday game a few years ago in Boston – known as the Mother’s Day Massacre (2007). The Orioles went into the 9th inning with a 5-0 lead, only to blow it completely and lose 6-5. Instead of evening their season record, they dropped to 18-20 and went 51-73 for the rest of the season to finish 69-93.)
Well, the Baltimore Orioles did not give up all six runs in the 9th inning this time around, but the rest of it is eerily too similar! I am now worried about the cumulative effect this loss will have on the Orioles moving forward – especially having to come back immediately and play an odd 11:00 a.m. game on Monday. Lots and lots of weird storylines here.
Rather than go back through the game in recap fashion, since most of you have either seen the game and/or read summaries of the action, let me draw some observations that come to mind based upon what was seen from the Orioles on Sunday night.
Ubaldo Jimenez – a step in the right direction – But the question remains as to how many more steps will need to be taken before he “arrives.” On this fourth start for the Baltimore Orioles, he held the Red Sox scoreless over his first 106 pitches. However, they got three runs on pitch #107 when Jonny Gomes hit it out of the park in the sixth inning to cut the lead to 5-3.
Jimenez is going to get it … he is going to be a strong performer over the bulk of the season. But here is my concern – how long will it take to get there? How soon will it take until warm enough weather arrives for the Caribbean native to flourish? What I fear could happen here is that this will be Jim Johnson in reverse: Instead of a reliever costing the Orioles the margin of victories needed at the end of the year, this starter may cost them the wins for a playoff berth at the beginning of the season.
Jimenez’ stuff is excellent most of the time he is pitching. He has movement on pitches not seen by most O’s hurlers. But he does not have placement, and when he tires, the ball stays “up” and is hit “way up” … like over the wall. My concern about Jimenez from day one of his signing was about pitch counts and depth into games. In this article I wrote on February 17th, I said, “However, with the outcry around Oriole-land of needing starters to go deeper into games, Jimenez averaged 5.71 innings per start in 2013. By comparison, Chris Tillman was 6.25, Wei-Yin Chen was 5.96, and Miguel Gonzalez 6.07. He does walk about four guys in nine innings, and he strikes out quite a few also – both traits certainly driving up the pitch counts.”
Throwing errors are killing the Orioles on defense – Another way of saying the same thing is that Manny Machado is needed back in Baltimore as quickly as possible. He is an anchor, a lynchpin. Remember at the end of 2012 when he arrived – how the defense suddenly went from a weakness to a strength in an instant? Yes, that is needed again. Jonathan Schoop is playing out of position. Ryan Flaherty is a fine fellow, but honestly is a utility infielder (though he was ripped off Sunday night in unjust fashion on the controversial “transfer play”).
Not impressed with the replay system – I never came out in favor of the replay system for baseball. The nature of this game and this sport, in my opinion, does not lend itself easily for replays solving issues without creating a new series of complications. I suspect it will be improved and tweaked sufficiently over time, but frankly, umpires have become poorer in their abilities over the years as the game and its players have become better and faster.
Jones can grind, and the Red Sox are difficult to watch – With four hits in this game, Adam Jones is such a great competitor. He is made for the big stage. And the Sox are just an ugly team to watch … though I suppose they look better if they are your hometown guys. But really, I hate the bearded look in MLB right now that gives the appearance of an infusion of the characters from Planet of the Apes into baseball uniforms. Gomes needs a helmet that fits properly. And all of them are increasingly like the Yankees when they take a strike – disbelief that the ump would dare to call a strike on them.
Monday’s Patriot Day game – Check back at 9:00 a.m. for a preview post with pitching matchups for the morning after the Easter Sunday Massacre.