Apr 25, 2015; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles left fielder David Lough (9) celebrates with teammates at home plate after hitting a walk-off home run off Boston Red Sox relief pitcher Koji Uehara (not pictured) in the tenth inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Baltimore Orioles defeated Boston Red Sox 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Before talking about the topic introduced by the title, let me mention that it is the fourth title that I had for this article following the Baltimore Orioles 5-4, 10th-inning win over the Boston Red Sox on Saturday night. As you surely know by now, it was a David Lough walk-off home run off Koji Uehara that broke the five-game losing streak. Lough has not had a great start this season, just like last year. But what may be forgotten is that on April 12th of 2014, he hit a walk-off single in the bottom of the 12th inning against the Blue Jays that scored Steve Lombardozzi, who had tripled.
Here are my other three headlines that, one by one, became obsolete as the evening progressed:
- When it looked like the Orioles were likely to win the game in regulation, with Wei-Yin Chen posting eight very good innings of two-run baseball, the headline I had already typed was “The Jimmy Paredes Hit Parade.” At that point he was 4-for-4 with a home run that looked to be the game-winning blow, since Zach Britton was coming in to close it out. Oh well …
- Britton was not at his best on this evening, but he deserved better than a blown save after the Sox managed to get a run on two infield hits and a Manny Machado throwing error. An accurate throw would have ended the game right there; but instead, it was now tied. For what seems like the umpteenth night in a row, O’s fans could look back to losses where just one play made differently would have changed the outcome. So, in planning to chronicle that, my working title was “Baltimore Orioles: One Play a Day Away from a Winning Record.”
- That title still would have worked if Boston did win the game on the strength of a top-of-the-10th homer by Xander Bogaerts. But the home team Birds got a leadoff triple from Adam Jones, who scored the tying run on a Chris Davis sac fly (his second of the game) … all right before the final winning blast by Lough. So, in thinking about how the O’s utility outfielder has been brutalized in comments by many fans on various boards, I went to a title of “The Lough-ly O becomes Highly Valuable.”
But, I next saw that my colleague Nate Wardle was already working on a game summary; so let’s look a bit deeper into three seemingly little things that are examples of what can make a difference in a close baseball game.
Relief pitching on a good, damp night – This is one of the most difficult things to do as a baseball player. It is one of my most distinct memories as a college pitcher who played in the Northeast. Sitting around for hours before being summoned into a cold game is extremely difficult – much more than starting the game when the temps are a bit milder and there is a long warmup.
Both closers got a blown save last night, with Uehara getting a loss as well. The only relief pitcher who looked good on this evening was Matt Barnes – a young guy making his first appearance of the season in the Bigs. Before this game, his MLB career consisted of nine innings pitched.
Obviously, Buck pretty much had to get Chen out of the game after eight innings. It is still April. But I’d bet everything that he would have finished off the game well. Every time you make a pitching change on a cold, damp night, you are asking for trouble; and that is what happened on Friday night when Tommy Hunter was taken out after 1.2 good innings. Just ride the hot hand when you’ve got one!
Defensive changes and using the whole roster – Showalter chose to have David Lough pinch run for Travis Snider in the eighth inning. Yes, this put more speed on the bases in an effort to secure an insurance run, and it almost worked. Lough went to third on a Caleb Joseph single (which Snider could not have done), and should have scored on a suicide squeeze if Rey Navarro had gotten the bunt down.
But now Lough is in the game as a defensive replacement.
On the other side, the Red Sox manager John Farrell does not choose to replace right fielder Allen Craig with a better defender to protect his one-run lead in the bottom of the 10th. Adam Jones bloops a ball toward right-center that Craig attempts an awkward and ill-fated catch, allowing it beyond him for a leadoff triple – very dumb. Actually, counting Farrell, it was dumb and dumber – should make a movie by that title!
Baserunning mistakes can kill a team – The Orioles have had their share of these lately. But the Red Sox had one cost them dearly in the 10th With runners at first and second and one out, with David Ortiz at the plate, Big Sloppy hit a weak ground ball toward second base. Shrub Pedroia, instead of stopping and forcing the infielder to come get him (allowing even the big tortoise to get to first base), or forcing the fielder to throw to first (allowing the Shrub to run safely to second base), he ran right into the out and therefore into a double play. Inning over, cue David Lough.
The fundamental things apply as time goes by.
And now that the Orioles have broken the silly losing streak and even had a couple of decent starts, perhaps some momentum in the opposite direction can now follow.
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