Another missed opportunity and another series loss.
Despite jumping out to an early 2-0 lead, the Orioles fell to the Seattle Mariners, 6-3, losing two out of three in their return to Camden Yards.
The wait for the Orioles’ offense to snap out of its two-week long funk is nearly as long as the seventh inning bomb Russell Branyan hit off Brian Bass that still hasn’t landed yet.
The pitching has performed—or not performed—just as we expected entering the season. Despite ranking 13th out of 14 American League teams in ERA (5.17 entering Thursday night), young pitchers such as Brad Bergesen and the recently-demoted David Hernandez have shown glimpses of hope. The bullpen has been solid—and at times, exceptional—when starters have been knocked out early over the last few weeks.
What we didn’t foresee was the mediocre performance from the Orioles’ bats, expected to be a strength in 2009. The offense ranks ninth in the American League, hitting .264 entering Thursday. Orioles’ hitters are batting just .222 in the month of June, leading to the recent collapse into the lonely, deep cellar of the AL East.
So, how did the Orioles respond tonight with a chance to gain a much-needed series win?
Inexplicably, the savior Matt Wieters was not in the lineup after posting back-to-back two-hit games against Seattle. Yes, the returning Koji Uehara has a comfort level with backup Gregg Zaun, but isn’t it more important to get Wieters going offensively?
Unless Dave Trembley plans on sending Zaun behind the plate to catch Uehara every start, there’s no point in delaying Wieters’ first encounter with the Japanese pitcher. Even if Zaun made miraculous use of the acclaimed Rosetta Stone software, it couldn’t have made that much of a difference tonight.
If he wasn’t going to be the catcher, Wieters should have been in the lineup tonight as the designated hitter with Luke Scott playing first base. Ty Wigginton (hitting .222) has done nothing to warrant playing time at this point. With a struggling offense, Trembley needs to go with any hot bat available—especially when it’s the top prospect in the big leagues trying to establish himself.
It makes little sense to sit Wieters after catching two games, especially with the rookie appearing to be on the verge of breaking out.
With former Orioles pitcher Garrett Olson taking the hill for Seattle,—having not started a game since May 31—the lineup figured to feast off the former prospect, but wrong again. After a 27-minute rain delay, Olson settled down and pitched five solid innings, his only blemish being a two-run homer by Luke Scott in the first inning.
After watching Olson pitch his way right out of Baltimore over the past two seasons, it was frustrating watching him stifle the Orioles’ bats.
At this point, I’d love to see what Radhames Liz could do against this lineup, but, alas, he’s still with the organization, being pummeled in Norfolk.
The offensive famine won’t last forever, but the team-wide slump could not have come at a worse time attendance-wise. The good vibes from Matt Wieters’ promotion less than two weeks ago have completely vanished—quite apparent with the sparse crowds for the three-game series with Seattle.
Perhaps the appeal of interleague play will draw some more fans to the gates over the next week, but the Orioles are providing few reasons to hand over the money to watch them play—even if it’s to watch Matt Wieters.
After all, there’s no guarantee he’s going to play anyway.