Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Blue Jaywalking

I saw a characteristic O’s game last night. A pitcher had retired 6 straight and was cruising going into the 7th inning. The opposition had just padded their lead and the other team was burning through relievers and looked to be going under. Then suddenly, a single. Then a walk. Then the wheels completely came off as a thunderous comeback brought the game to a tie, to be finished off in the bottom of the 9th as yet another mistake was exploited for runs, ending the game 7-6. There was one problem with this vision, however.

The Orioles weren’t making the comeback, they were the ones giving up the win.

With 26 of 44 wins being come from behind, I am almost more nervous when the Orioles are ahead in the late innings than I am when they are behind. Recently however, the bullpen has been allowing more and more games to slip away after playing lights-out for the first two months of the season. Not that anyone can blame them or their exhausted arms- we have already focused heavily on relief pitching worries here on Around the Harbor, but last night’s loss was just not at all characteristic of this team. Against the Expos (they call themselves the Nationals, but we know they’re the Expos), the Royals, and the Rangers, the Orioles let go of games they should have won. This team cannot afford to do so and still finish with a respectable record.

There will be many questions about this game, in addition to understandable shock and outrage. I will do my best to answer them:

Should Daniel Cabrera have been left in the game in the 7th inning after allowing the first two base runners? While Cabrera had played well over the previous few innings, he had walked 4 batters already and had a pitch out of 101. I understand that when Cabrera is starting you know you can afford to pitch him a bit longer than you would a standard starter, but when he loses his control it is difficult to get it back. Dave Trembley was looking to stop the bleeding before a rally got started. Had Dennis Sarfate performed as he is expected to, it would have.

Is Alberto Castillo that bad? No. The moment he came in the game I knew it would not end well. He may be 33 years old, but he was making his first major league appearance, and unlike a young pitcher, he knows that if he blows this opportunity he might never pitch in the majors again. That much pressure, particularly as he entered the game with runners in scoring position with the task of keeping Toronto from tying or taking the lead, cannot lead to an accurate picture of whether he can be a solid relief pitcher while others get healthy.

How long until Alex Cintron comes back? I never thought I would long for Cintron’s defense until I watched Freddie Bynum play shortstop over the last week. Two critical errors over that stretch have caused two Orioles losses. His second stint in Baltimore is going even worse than his first, and it is unlikely we will ever see him in Baltimore again once Alex comes off the DL.

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