10:41 AM EDT, July 4, 2012
When Robert Andino homered with two outs in the ninth inning and Jim Johnson closed out Tuesday night’s victory over the Seattle Mariners, the sound you heard was not the Orioles fan base humming the old “Oriole Magic” theme.
The fans who weren’t dozing in their recliners seemingly safe in the assumption that Wei-Yin Chenhad dominated the Mariners and recorded his eighth victory were trying to put their hair back in their heads after watching Pedro Strop engineer the Orioles second late-inning collapse in a row.
The Orioles bullpen has been the backbone of the club, but it has been hiccuping for the past couple of weeks. O’s relievers have given up at least one run in each of the team’s last eight games, but continue to lead the American League in combined ERA (2.71), saves (28) and victories (17).
Strop has been very dependable, but he gave up a rare string of hits after coming into the game with a runner on second and one out in the eighth. To that point, the game did not seem to be in doubt after Chen carried a perfect game into the seventh and had allowed just two hits and no walks.
In retrospect, perhaps manager Buck Showalter could have left Chen in for another batter or two, since he had thrown just 97 pitches and had several left-handed hitters lined up to face him, but there was no reason to think that the one-two punch of Strop and Jim Johnson couldn’t protect a three-run lead for five outs.
After Monday night’s discouraging defensive breakdown – which featured a pair of glaring misplays by Andino -- blowing a game after knocking out Felix Hernandez would have been another big blow to the seemingly shaky confidence of the young O’s. Losing the game also would have dropped the Orioles into third place in the American League East.
So, the sound you heard late last night was thousands of Orioles fans breathing a temporary sigh of relief.
With four games against the powerful Angels looming, the Orioles need Chris Tillman to come up big in the rubber game of the Mariners series today.