Four balls means a walk. It also means a loss, in the Orioles case. That’s just what happened yesterday against the Rays, when Jason Berken inherited bases loaded in the 6th inning and after a ground ball turned into a forceout at home, Berken had to face another batter. That’s where the walk came in. That walk created the winning run for the Rays, with the Birds inability to come back late against the Rays ‘pen.
We move on. That seems to be a theme this season for this team. In almost any interview you listen to, whether it’s with a player or with the manager post-game, the main theme of the season is to just look to the future. I guess winning now is too much to ask of a professional sports club.
We look ahead. The Minnesota Twins visit the Orioles for a 4 game series this weekend, starting tonight (Thursday). If I had written a piece pre-season about this series, along with the series the Orioles played at Target Field back in early May, I could have almost promised everybody a large focus on the catching matchup. Matt Wieters vs. Joe Mauer. Matchup of the century. But no, Mauer had a left heel bruise for over a week back in May (though he got to DH one of the games, it wasn’t spectacular like expected), and Wieters has the messed up hamstring this week. Storyline shot down.
But no, I will not bore you on a history of players with epic mustaches leading up to Carl Pavano. I won’t drag on discussing the relationship between the new stadium in Minneapolis and Oriole Park at Camden Yards. I just want to highlight the roster shuffle coming up for the Orioles, since winning these games is unimportant, as long as the future is set, right?
My top headline to analyze in tonight’s game will be the second coming of Orioles failed close concept of Mike Gonzalez. Nicknamed Gonzo, I have no reason to call a guy by a fun name until he learns to get outs and not blow 2 out of 3 save chances while hiding a shoulder injury in order to totally let down fans. He upset me a bit, if you couldn’t tell. Well, Gonzalez was activated yesterday (oddly enough with Troy Patton), and was not used (neither was Patton) because Samuel stuck with his more confident options in Hernandez, Hendrickson, and Berken in the extremely close showdown. But, with the Twins bringing in a strong offense after a huge series in Minnesota (including their first walk-off win at the new park against Bobby Jenks and the White Sox), I expect blowouts, in which case Gonzalez will get his chance at some work.
Kevin Millwood will be activated today to make the start tonight (his elbow is fine, he still doesn’t know why he went on the DL). He will face the Twins ‘stache-tacular strong arm in Carl Pavano. While Millwood is known right now for his stats in letting up runs in the 1st, and lots of them overall, the big deal will be how many innings he can last. Once again, the win is obviously not important, so as long as Millwood can keep throwing, the O’s will keep him in there. Our bullpen is, well, dead. Lots of innings today is a must.
We then get Twins newer starter Brian Duensing (3-1, 1.67 ERA) on Friday night, facing our top starter at this point, Jeremy Guthrie. While our starting pitching was the most consistent factor in the beginning of the season when the offense practically was in ‘strikeout the side’ mode and the bullpen busted any leads we ever had, Guthrie stood strong through it all. With a top 20 ERA in May in MLB, it all went down past that. Well, not just for Guthrie, but he’s the focus here. Yes, our top starter is 3-10 with a 4.58 ERA. Who’s looking forward to the rest of this season?
Saturday brings us Scott Baker (7-9, 5.15, who owned us back in May) matching up with Brian Matusz (3-10, 5.21). With almost matching ERA’s, Baker has a few more wins due to having a lineup behind him. Can Matusz last past the 3rd? He surely hasn’t in his last two starts.
And to end the series, along with this 10 game homestand, the Birds can finish off the weekend with some runs off of Kevin Slowey (8-5, 4.94). Pitching for the O’s, I assume, is Jake Arrieta, though the probable pitchers section of Orioles.com reads Sunday’s pitcher on our side as “To be announced.” Arrieta, a possibility for August’s T-shirt Tuesday, needs to prove himself. While he has been alright so far, he is still the one bright spot left on this staff in my mind, with this season being one of crappy moments for Matusz, Tillman, and Bergesen. Though I do know for a fact that none of those 3 will get the t-shirt honors, since Matusz and Bergy had their spots last year, and the communications department with the Orioles has confirmed for me that it will not be Tillman.
We split the 4 game trip in Minnesota earlier this season, but with strong pitching all around from our starters. Let’s hope for at least one win this weekend. If it matters. Or, just re-watch the futures game, so you can see Britton and what he will bring in the future. Because that’s what counts, right?