BALTIMORE — The Orioles talked the talk throughout the winter months, in addition to upgrading their lineup with four new hitters.
They said all the right things about not putting the Yankees and the Red Sox on a pedestal, forgetting about the bloated payrolls and the World Series rings and the absolute domination those teams have held over the Orioles season after season. The game was decided on the field, they said, not with checkbooks, past results, or preseason predictions.
Buck Showalter invigorated a fan base with a confident way about him, building optimism after a 34-23 finish in the final two months of 2010. Make no mistake, his mindset still is the correct one for an organization trying to reverse the losing culture that’s poisoned the once-proud Orioles over the course of 13 years. But he doesn’t throw pitches or swing the bats.
His players bought into it, echoing the skipper’s sentiments about the two biggest foes in the most difficult division in baseball. It all sounded so great at FanFest, during spring training, and after a 6-1 start.
But, as Showalter always reminds us, games are played between the lines, and the Yankees absolutely throttled the Orioles in a 15-3 massacre in front of 39,054 at Camden Yards, many of them Yankee fans as has become the frustrating custom in Baltimore.
After all the talk of the Yankees being just another team, they’re still one the Orioles can’t beat and are winless against in three games this season.
“It’s one game,” said catcher Matt Wieters about the Saturday night beating. “It doesn’t matter whether we lost 4-3 or 15-3. It’s one game. We’ll come back tomorrow and go after them.”
He’s right. It is only one game with 15 more to go against the Yankees this season. But after going 5-13 against New York a season ago and losing their first three this season, the Orioles have to start beating the Yankees at some point to turn this thing around in the direction toward competing. An 0-3 start against the Bronx Bombers can’t do much for your confidence going forward after blowing a 5-0 lead in the second game at Yankee Stadium nine days ago and giving up 15 runs in your home ballpark on Saturday night.
The spirited talk of Orioles fans “taking back The Yard” sounds great, but you have to make it something worth taking back first. Saturday was just the latest of many embarrassments at Camden Yards as the Yankees hit five home runs, including two by new catcher Russell Martin in the sixth and eighth innings and a grand slam by Alex Rodriguez to make it a 10-run laugher in the eighth.
The Bronx-supporting fans were as loud as ever as hometown fans, trying to fight the good fight, could only head for the exits with their heads down as they have so many times in recent years. Dealing with opposing fans and watching your team get dismantled doesn’t make for a fun experience at the ballpark on a warm Saturday night in April.
In all fairness, CC Sabathia was terrific, improving to 15-2 lifetime against the Orioles. He stifled the Baltimore bats over eight innings, his only blemish a three-run homer by Adam Jones in the seventh inning. However, the Orioles failed to even make it tough on the burly lefty early in the game, allowing Sabathia to get through six innings on just 56 pitches. It was Sabathia’s first win of the season after failing to record a victory in his first four starts of 2011.
Brad Bergesen, on the other hand, struggled at the onset, allowing three runs in the first before settling down to retire 14 of 17 hitters before giving up a three-run blast to Russell Martin in the sixth inning to make it a 6-0 game.
It was the Yankees ace going up against the Orioles’ fourth or fifth starter. No chance, right?
“I was in the dugout, and you could tell [Sabathia] had everything,” Showalter said. “Pitch count was so far down. I think he was less than 60 going into the sixth or seventh. He had that type of stuff. He had everything there for him tonight, and I thought Martin did a great job with him.”
But no excuses, either, as Showalter likes to remind us. Though Sabathia is one of the greatest pitchers of this generation, his career-long domination over the Orioles is downright ridiculous at this point and is a bitter pill to swallow, especially in the first home game against the Yankees in a season that’s supposed to be different.
The 6-1 start and early stay in first place seems like a long time ago as the Orioles (8-11) have now lost 10 of their last 12 and find themselves in last place after the surging Boston Red Sox — who were 2-10 not that long ago — beat the Los Angeles Angels on the west coast Saturday night.
The lineup continues to sputter despite the significant effort to increase run production by adding Derrek Lee, Vladimir Guerrero, and Mark Reynolds. The Orioles have now scored 74 runs in 19 games, good for only 3.9 runs per game. With a young pitching staff missing the injured Brian Matusz and clearly struggling in its own right, the offense hasn’t been nearly good enough to compete let alone carry this team to wins.
It’s still very early, but with new names in the lineup against Sabathia and the Yankees, the results looked similar to what we’ve seen over and over.
“It’s really tough to swallow, you know,” said Bergesen about the disappointment of the entire night. “You get beat by 12 runs and with that many Yankees fans, it’s not fun whatsoever.”
No fun is right.