There was a lot to digest from the Orioles' 6-3 loss to the New York Yankees yesterday in 11 innings. You had a couple of home runs, two key plays at the plate, a blown save by arguably the greatest closer of all time, an extra-innings weather delay and a yet another Orioles loss to a team they can't seem to beat. Below are five things that may not have been discussed much in the hours after the game but certainly shouldn't go unnoticed.
The Orioles managed only two Luke Scott singles in six innings against Freddy Garcia
When it happens against the likes of CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander, it's excusable. However, the Orioles were dominated yesterday by Freddy Garcia. I'm not convinced that we would have had any of the late-game drama if Yankees manager Joe Girardi had left Garcia in for at least one more inning rather than yanking him with his pitch count at 90. For six innings against Garcia, the Orioles didn't even look like they stood a chance. I understand that Garcia has had a nice career and he how to pitch, but he is 34 and mostly reliant on soft stuff at this point. Right now, the Orioles' No. 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7 hitters are batting below .230. Mark Viviano, one of the best in the business at WJZ-TV and 105.7 The Fan, pointed out that the Orioles' 3-4-5 hitters (Lee, Guerrero, Scott) have a combined six homers and 15 RBIs while the Yankees' 7-8-9 hitters (Posada, Martin, Gardner) have a combined 13 homers and 31 RBIs. You'd think facing another team's fourth or fifth starter would get the Orioles going a little bit, but nothing seems to be working. The Orioles have scored just two first-inning runs in 20 games. A couple of early runs might not work wonders only for them, but also for their young pitching staff.
The at-bats against Mariano Rivera in the ninth inning are worth replicating
As powerless as they looked for six innings against Garcia, the Orioles strung together some sensational at-bats against Rivera, a future Hall of Famer, in the ninth. Adam Jones set the tone with a gritty 10-pitch at-bat that resulted in a leadoff walk. Jones fell behind 1-2, fouled one off, took two balls, fouled three off and then took ball four. Mark Reynolds and Matt Wieters followed with strikeouts, but both were seven pitch at-bats, so they at least made Rivera work. Jake Fox came off the bench, fell behind 0-1 and then lined a single to right field to keep the game alive. Brian Roberts watched Rivera throw three straight balls. He took a strike, then hit the game-tying double. In the inning, the Orioles took some close pitches, made Rivera work and ultimately were rewarded. Their approach in the inning appeared to be similar to when they knocked around the Minnesota Twins' Carl Pavano during their 11-0 victory April 19. Coincidence? I would bet not.
Nick Markakis squaring for a bunt probably speaks volumes
I'm not sure I can remember the last time Nick Markakis squared for a bunt as he did in the 10th inning yesterday against lefty Boone Logan. He pulled the bat back instead of offering, so perhaps he was just trying to get the Yankees' infield to move a bit. Some people will probably applaud the move and say Markakis is just trying to find a way to get on base as the leadoff man in a tie game in extra innings. I guess I can live with that. However, my initial thought was that Markakis, who pounded left-handed pitching all last season, must be really struggling with his confidence to even consider dropping down a bunt at that point. I'd certainly prefer the team's best all-around hitter to attempt to drive a ball somewhere. Derrek Lee, who has two RBIs all season, and Felix Pie, a late-game replacement, were following Markakis in the order, so it's not like he was attempting to set the table for hot hitters. I've had people around the team the past couple of weeks ask me what is wrong with Markakis. I don't know the answer, but he appears to be frustrated and in a malaise. He seems to get in these extended funks every year, and they prevent him from getting the All-Star recognition that his teammates feel is long overdue.
Michael Gonzalez's struggles and the Orioles' lack of confidence in him were evident yesterday
Fans have been criticizing manager Buck Showalter for a while now for using Michael Gonzalez in key spots despite the fact that he clearly is struggling. Well, Showalter didn't use him or fellow lefty Clay Rapada, who threw 17 pitches a night earlier and had already warmed up yesterday, during the 11th inning, and that didn't work out well either. I have little doubt that if Gonzalez were going better, he would have probably been in the game instead of right-hander Jason Berken. The left-handed-hitting Robinson Cano led off in the inning for the Yankees. Nick Swisher, a switch-hitter who is more dangerous power-wise from the left side of the plate, was scheduled to hit second. The right-handed-hitting Eduardo Nunez was due up third, though he was going to be pinch-hit for by either Eric Chavez or Andruw Jones. Righty Russell Martin was due up fourth and left-handed-hitting Brett Gardner fifth. But the key outs in the inning were Cano and Swisher, and if the Orioles had a lefty who was really doing well in their bullpen, I would think that he would have gotten the nod over Berken.
Jake Arrieta has good stuff, and he should trust it more
The Orioles right-hander was obviously shaky at the start, allowing Curtis Granderson's two-run homer on his fourth pitch, and the first four Yankees he faced to reach base. He ultimately settled down and allowed just the three runs over six innings while striking out a career-high nine. He got many of those strikeouts on curveballs, clearly his best pitch yesterday. Arrieta has a good fastball and a couple of nice weapons to get big league hitters out. His problems seem to arise when he starts nibbling and walking guys. Arrieta is a smart kid and he competes hard, and ultimately, I think results like what he got today will provide yet another reminder that he's tough for anybody to hit when he's throwing strikes. I know he has a 4.94 ERA over five starts, but aside from that one terrible inning against the Texas Rangers, I've been very impressed with Arrieta this year, though he obviously needs to start getting deeper in games.