The Orioles wouldn’t say it, but they’re probably glad they won’t see the Tampa Bay Rays again until mid-August.
They were able to salvage one win in their trip to the Trop, but since taking two of three in Tampa Bay in the opening series of the season, the Rays have been tough on the Orioles.
We’re reminded very quickly why Tampa Bay was picked by many to win the American League East. Their ability to control games with their pitching might make them the most dangerous team in baseball when everything is clicking.
But at least the Orioles returned to Baltimore coming off a strong offensive game. Now they won’t enter this week’s seven-game homestand against the Los Angeles Angels and Boston Red Sox wondering how such a strong lineup could suddenly becoming so unproductive.
First baseman Chris Davis struggled here in Tampa Bay. This was the same place where Davis hit three homers and drove in 11 runs in April. This weekend, he was 0-for-12 with six strikeouts. That’s his worst series this season, and really Davis’ first test of adversity in 2013.
If Alexi Casilla didn’t raise his stock in the eyes of manager Buck Showalter after Sunday’s game, it would be difficult to think of what else he could do. Casilla reached base three times in four plate appearances and drove in two runs. And his tag on Desmond Jennings’ attempted steal was jaw dropping.
The knock on Casilla over the years has been his consistency, that he tends to rely on flash a little too much. But plays like the one he made Sunday on Jennings provide spark. They energize teammates. When they see Casilla make a play like that one, they want to be the next one to make a big play in a critical situation.
After the game, when asked about the production the Orioles received from the bottom third of the order -- Danny Valencia had a big double and scored two runs, Steve Pearce had his second three-hit game and Casilla did his share -- Showalter said something interesting.
“Alexi and Stevie and Danny all did some things, but they give themselves a chance to be successful,” he said. “They know what their role is here, and they want to be ready when called upon. And that's how you get to have your role expanded. They understand that."
Let’s see if those guys’ roles continue to expand.
A lot of readers were asking why Showalter took out Darren O’Day after he struck out the side in the seventh inning and went to left-hander Brian Matusz for the eighth inning.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but with a seven-run lead and coming off back-to-back losses, Showalter probably wanted to get Matusz some work. He hadn’t pitched in two days and when he did it was to just one batter on Thursday in an afternoon game in Houston.
And Matusz is allowed a rough outing, especially when he’s been a huge part of the bullpen’s success this season. You’d rather see him struggle in a seven-run game than in a tight one, and he’s rarely struggled in tough situations.