Baltimore Orioles, Tommy Hunter – a Matter of Time


May 9, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles left fielder David Lough (9), center fielder Adam Jones (10) and right fielder Nick Markakis (21) celebrate in the outfield after the game against the Houston Astros at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. against the Baltimore Orioles defeated against the Houston Astros 4-3. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Baltimore Orioles pulled off a win in 10 innings over the Houston Astros Saturday night in one of those games that will be long remembered as an improbable come-from-behind victory 5-4. The Orioles now have a five-game winning streak and improve on the season to 20-14.

Even those of you not old enough to remember the famous pitcher named Catfish Hunter have probably heard about him. Well, our Baltimore Hunter – Tommy Hunter – is a sort of cat too … call him “Nine-Lives Hunter.”

The designated closer for the early part of this season has been walking on the edge for a long time, and on this evening it caught up with him. Having a chance to close out the game in the ninth inning by preserving the 3-2 lead given the Birds by the eighth inning homer of Nelson Cruz, he surrender two runs. Then down came the rains.

After a 55-minute delay, the Baltimore Orioles scored a tying run with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth on a single up the middle – beat out at first base by Delmon Young.

Finally, the Orioles got the game winner in the 10th inning when J.J. Hardy, who had singled, was driven home on a double into the right-field corner by Steve Clevenger.

Throughout the rain delay, it looked inevitable that the story of the game would be a blown save and loss laid at the feet of Tommy Hunter. In 16 games, Hunter has pitched 14.1 innings, giving up seven runs on 20 hits, with four walks and 14 strikeouts. His ERA is now 4.40 with 11 saves in 13 attempts. But he has not run out of “lives.”

Twitter really blew up with frustrations after the blown save. Here are some examples…

  • “#tommyhunter blowing the save. I’m not even mad cause I knew it was comin, just don’t know when, like this rain. Let’s go O’s!
  • “The Tommy Drama thing doesn’t feel so clever after Hunter gives up a 2 run double to give the Astros the lead”
  • “A pitcher who NEVER has a 1-2-3 inning is NOT a closer. He may be a lucky bastard for awhile, but the odds catch up”
  • “Saves aren’t an issue if the #Orioles could score more than 3 runs a game”
  • “Don’t forget #orioles had bases loaded n no outs n only scored one.  Should not have come down to a one run game in ninth”
  • “Holy Mother of God that’s a lot of rain! God is crying because Hunter blew the save”
  • “Are Jim Johnson and Tommy Hunter related?  Why can’t we get a solid closer?”
  • “This feels like Jim Johnson all over again. Zach Britton needs to be the closer.”

The summary feeling is that this was inevitable given the history of the season so far, and that the time has come for Zach Britton to be given the task. If the Orioles are not going to stretch out Britton to a starter, and if they insist on a designated closer, then it is difficult to argue against such a move. Britton is at the very top of all MLB pitchers in several statistical categories.

Sunday’s Game

As the Orioles look to sweep the series and continue their winning ways, they will be sending their presumptive best starter to the mound in Chris Tillman. With an ERA of 3.80, Tillman will be making his eighth start of the season. He is 3-1, giving up 18 runs in 42.2 innings on 42 hits.

Tillman has only ever pitched once against the Astros, winning that game by giving up only a solo home run in seven innings.

The Baltimore Orioles will face another young Houston starter in 23-year-old Jarred Cosart. He has thrown a total of 98 innings in his MLB career. This year Cosart is 1-3 on a 4.50 ERA, most recently giving up no earned runs in seven innings against the Tigers.

Chris Davis Return?

Will Chris Davis be back with the Orioles on Sunday? In a televised interview with Dan Duquette during the rain delay, it did sound like a real possibility. And who would he replace on the roster? About all Duke said is that Steve Pearce had earned a position on the team. Delmon Young? He’s hitting over .300 and got the big hit in the bottom of the ninth to extend the game.

I’d send Ryan Flaherty down and risk the lack of a specific infield back-up. Yes, that would be strange. Then again, maybe Matt Wieters should simply be DL-ed and simply get over this elbow problem. He has not looked good at the plate the past two days. If he is not going to catch for a couple of weeks, it is a matter of trading out Wieters for Davis.

What a night; what a win!