A forgettable opening week for the Orioles

April 11, 2010 | Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — What’s left to really say about such an awful week of baseball?

To their credit, the Orioles found a new way to cost themselves a ballgame Sunday afternoon when Miguel Tejada’s fielding miscue led to a Jose Bautista two-run homer with two outs in the eighth inning to push Toronto ahead 3-2. The Blue Jays added two more runs to complete a 5-2 win and a three-game sweep at Camden Yards.

Starting pitcher Kevin Millwood cruised through the first 7.2 innings of his start, looking every bit like the strong veteran presence the Orioles envisioned for the No. 1 spot in the rotation. However, Millwood unraveled after the error—the Orioles’ first of the season—and gave up back-to-back home runs to Bautista and Alex Gonzalez (who also went deep in the fourth).

“Millwood pitched a great game,” said manager Dave Trembley. “If we make the play in the eighth inning, he finishes it and completes the game, and we’re on our way and it doesn’t happen.”

Unfortunately, it’s happened all week as the Orioles now look at an ugly 1-5 record, only a shaky save conversion from Mike Gonzalez on Thursday night stands in the way of this team being 0-6.

Maybe we should be thanking him? Well, maybe not.

Failing to close games, not capitalizing with runners in scoring position, and now a critical error have been the difference between quite possibly a 4-2 record and their current 1-5 mark.

Therein lies the problem. Baseball is a game of inches. The difference between winning and losing can be minute in any single game, an idea the Orioles either haven’t understood or been able to capitalize on in the first week of the season.

The Orioles have scored two runs—both in the first inning of Sunday’s game—in their last 19 innings. They’re an abominable 9-for-54 (.167) with runners in scoring position this season.

Completely unacceptable.

We know how badly the new closer has struggled, and it now appears imminent that Brian Roberts is heading to the disabled list.

But what about the rest of the team?

Sure, the games have been close, but that doesn’t really matter.

By inches or not, the Orioles simply aren’t getting the job done. All you have to do is look at their record.

- This is the Orioles’ first 1-5 start since 2002. That team went on to have a 67-95 record, which included a 4-32 finish to the season.

- The Orioles have now allowed runs in the eight or ninth inning in all six games this year. They’ve allowed a total of 11 runs in the final two innings.

- The Blue Jays hit four home runs in Sunday’s victory over the Orioles. Sunday’s game marks the 11th time in Orioles history they’ve allowed seven or fewer hits with four or more of those being home runs.

The last time was September 28, 2009 against Tampa Bay.

- Nick Markakis drew a walk in his first at-bat in the first inning today, giving him nine for the season, more than anyone in the majors.

- Tejada’s error in the eighth inning opened the door for three Toronto runs. It was the first fielding error of the season for the Orioles, who were the next-to-last team in the majors to commit an error.

The Minnesota Twins have yet to commit one this season.

- Gonzalez’s home run in the eighth inning gave him his seventh career multi-homer game and his first since May 7, 2007 against Houston when he was a member of the Cincinnati Reds.

- The Orioles will send Jeremy Guthrie (0-1, 4.26) to the hill to start a three-game set with the Tampa Bay Rays at Camden Yards at 7:05 p.m. on Monday night. Matt Garza, who dominated the Orioles last week at Tropicana Field, takes the mound for the Rays.

Check out the final box score here.

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Good afternoon and Happy Sunday as we’re set for the finale against the Toronto Blue Jays here at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. First pitch is scheduled for 1:35 p.m.

The Orioles will attempt to rebound from a 3-0 shutout, as Blue Jays lefty Dana Eveland stifled the Baltimore lineup for 7.1 innings for the Toronto bullpen polished off the shutout. Kevin Millwood will take the hill for the Orioles in his second start of the season. In his Opening Night start in Tampa Bay, Millwood pitched five innings, giving up two runs while scattering nine hits.

Here are today’s lineups:

Toronto
RF Jose Bautista
SS Alex Gonzalez
DH Adam Lind
CF Vernon Wells
1B Lyle Overbay
C John Buck
3B Edwin Encarnacion
LF Travis Snider
2B John McDonald

SP Shaun Marcum (0-0, 3.86 ERA)

Orioles
LF Felix Pie
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
3B Miguel Tejada
DH Luke Scott
C Matt Wieters
1B Ty Wigginton
2B Julio Lugo
SS Cesar Izturis

SP Kevin Millwood (0-0, 3.60 ERA)

Don’t forget to join us for a special Orioles/Masters final round edition of the Orange Crust chat, hosted today by Nestor Aparicio and Drew Forrester. For the quickest updates, please follow us on Twitter (@WNST). I’ll be providing pre-game updates right here (time-stamped below) leading up to first pitch.

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1:29 p.m. — A few final notes before I head over to the Orange Crush chat:

Markakis is 9-for-18 with five home runs and six RBI in his career against Toronto starter Shaun Marcum. Tejada is 6-for-13 with three home runs and seven RBI against the right-hander.

And if you’re desperately searching for a positive on the Orioles at this point, they and the Minnesota Twins are the only teams in baseball with a field error.

Does that make you feel better? Yeah, I didn’t think so.

12:35 p.m. — Reports are circulating from MASN that infielder Justin Turner is being summoned from Norfolk, a good indication that Roberts will be placed on the 15-day disabled list. Turner is already on the 40-man roster, so no corresponding move would be needed in that regard.

Trembley would most likely use Lugo as his primary option at second base, but Turner, 25, is a career .307 hitter in the minor leagues. It would definitely be nice to give the infielder a look, as he would have a much better chance of fitting into the team’s long-term plans than Lugo.

12:15 p.m. — To say the Orioles’ start is disappointing would be an understatement, but their performance against Toronto this weekend is especially troubling. Playing without arguably their best player Aaron Hill (36 home runs and 108 RBI last year), the Blue Jays are a win away from completing a sweet at Camden Yards. Toronto was 1-8 in Baltimore last year.

With such a tough schedule on the horizon—not to mention the sheer reality of playing in the AL East—the Blue Jays are a team the Orioles SHOULD beat. Based on this series and the two teams’ respective starts through five games, perhaps preseason prognosticators were selling Toronto short by picking them as the consensus last-place team in the division.

Of course, we’re only five games deep into the season.

12:00 p.m. — With Roberts still out of the lineup with an abdominal strain, Dave Trembley will use Pie in the leadoff spot this afternoon. The outfielder has been battling a sore throwing shoulder, but the Orioles skipper had previously said he would return to the lineup this weekend. While he’s certainly not your prototypical leadoff man, Pie is a far more attractive option at the top of the order than Lugo.

Roberts is still day-to-day, but the Orioles could decide to place him on the disabled list after reevaluating him. Of course, any move would be retroactive, but Trembley does not want to play with a short bench for an extended period of time.

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