Since Buck Showalter took over as manager of the Orioles on August 3, 2010, the Orioles are 25-19 against the Sox, including 10 of the last 14. Last night, the O’s continued their winning ways, taking the three game weekday series 2-1. As has been their M.O., they were led by Adam Jones, Chris Davis and their stingy bullpen.
The game, despite its depressing finish, started off well for me. I “caught” (probably more accurately described as “retrieved”) my first ever foul ball at a professional game. On the third pitch of his first at bat, Jacoby Ellsbury sent a line shot foul into the seats right near mine. A white haired gentleman tried to catch it. The ball smashed through his hands, ricoched off his chest, and landed, after a few bounces, in my row a few seats away. Since it was only the first inning, it was cold, and rain threatened to make a cold evening even colder, there was nobody sitting in the seats to my left (those six seats went unclaimed the entire game). Unobstructed, I quickly marched down the row and snatched the ball up before anyone else. History made!
That good feeling lasted until Chris Davis, in the top of the second, launched a massive, no doubt, homer to center field. Despite this blast, I’d say that Aflredo Aceves pitched pretty well for his five innings and left with the score tied 2-2. Not a bad job. The bullpen, however, did not hold up its end. Clay Mortensen did a decent job, even though he got tagged for the loss. It was Andrew Miller, in my mind, who deserved the goat horns. Asked, with two outs, to get the lefty Nick Markakis, he couldn’t. Ahead 1 and 2, he walked Markakis on six pitches. That put runners on first and second with two down. Farrell summoned Koji Uehara to face the tough Adam Jones. So far this year Jones and Davis have been the key cogs to the Oriole offense. Those two are hitting a combined .436 (27-62) with seven doubles, six homers, 17 runs scored and 26 RBI. The other Orioles are batting .224 (49-219) with nine doubles, five homers, 29 runs scored and 17 RBI. Jones and Davis have slugged .839, while the rest of the Birds have a .333 slugging percentage. “Get on our backs, boys,” say Jones and Davis and the O’s have complied.
It was not much of a surprise when Jones laced the first pitch he saw from Uehara down the left field line for a double, scoring Machado easily. That was all the O’s would need as the Sox could do nothing against their bullpen. The Sox seemed particularly flummoxed by sidewinder Darren O’Day. As usual, Jim Johnson shut the door in the ninth despite a final shot by Ellsbury who, with the tying run on first, sent a liner to left that was caught by Nate McLouth to end things.
I couldn’t help but feel during the game that the Sox missed Ortiz’s bat. The scoreboard teased us with the news that Ortiz had gone 1 for 2 with Pawtucket in his rehab assignment. Here’s to hoping that rehab ends soon and he takes his rightful spot this weekend as the cleanup hitter. Napoli hit the ball hard the whole game but Middlebrooks did nothing. Ortiz’s bat would really deepen the lineup. That will mean the demotion of JBJ to Pawtucket. I don’t think that’s such a bad thing for the youngster.
I expect tonight’s game will be rained out. If not, the scheduled matchup is Alex Cobb v. Felix Doubront. I’ve seen Cobb described as a Boston native. From what I can glean, he was born in Boston but graduated from Vero Beach High School, so at some point his family moved to Florida. My guess is he’s more a Floridian then a Bostonian. Regardless, the one thing I can say about him with some certainty is that he is a damn good young pitcher and someone I wish the Sox had. He’s 25 (as is Doubront) with a 15-11 big league record, mostly compiled in 2012 when he won the Rays 5th starter job. Thus, he was partly responsible for making both James Shield and Wade Davis expendable in the Will Myers trade. Cobb opened his 2013 campaign with a victory over the Indians going 7 and 1/3, allowing 4 hits and 3 walks while striking out six. Cobb’s fastball tops out at 91 and he is known more as a finesse and control guy then someone who will overpower a lineup. Doubront, on the other hand, is all about his fastball. He strikes out more batters but is less efficient, averaging nearly four pitches per plate appearance, the 16th most of any pitcher in baseball in 2012. In about the same number of major league innings, Doubront’s ERA is more then a run higher then Cobb’s. Neither pitcher is destined for ace level status but my guess is that Cobb has a longer and better career then Doubront.
The Sox need to get back to winning. Tonight’s tilt and this weekend’s series against the Rays will make that a difficult task.