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Orioles observations and opinions

The worst thing about last night's loss?: The fact that the Orioles tied the game off future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera and then weren't able to scratch one run across over six innings against Luis Ayala, Boone Logan and Hector Noesi. Rafael Soriano is on the disabled list and Yankees manager Joe Girardi obviously wanted to stay away from his other top setup men – Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson. The Orioles let him do it and get away with it, and now Girardi still has his most important relief options available for tonight, though with CC Sabathia's track record against the Orioles, they may not be needed.

The Orioles allowed Bartolo Colon to get through the first seven innings on just 68 pitches. I know Colon's command was good and he was getting called strikes by home plate umpire Dan Bellino on anything even close to the plate, but that number is unacceptable any way you slice it. In a couple of games this year, the Orioles have really made the opposing starter work and the results have been good. The matchups with Felix Hernandez and Carl Pavano come to mind. But the biggest criticism I'd have with their offense is they simply don't make the opposing pitching staffs, specifically the starters, work hard enough on a nightly basis.

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Speaking of Bellino, I try to avoid criticizing umpires too much because it is overdone and largely pointless. But that had to be one of the worst strike zones I've seen all year, and that was true for both teams. Colon, whose command was stellar, was just able to exploit it better than the Oriole pitchers. There were some pitches called strikes that didn't even flirt with the plate. And while trying to be sympathetic to Chris Dickerson, who had to go to the hospital after getting hit in the head by Michael Gonzalez's pitch in the 15th inning, I don't agree with the decision to eject Gonzalez. It was three pitches after Robinson Cano's go-ahead, two-run double and Gonzalez certainly doesn't have the reputation as a head hunter. He also knows that he was the final Oriole reliever available so I doubt he's going to intentionally hit somebody and risk being tossed. Bellino heard it from both dugouts all night and it was well deserved.

By the way, a couple of people asked me why Showalter didn't let Bellino have it after the Gonzalez ejection even though he believed that there was no intent whatsoever. The reason was that it would have been in incredibly poor taste had he made a scene while Dickerson was on the ground getting tended to by medical personnel. Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen pulled that kind of stunt - though saying he made a scene would be an exaggeration - against the Orioles back on May 2 when Nick Markakis left the game after a Chris Sale fastball deflected off both his bat and his hand. Guillen, who apparently thought Markakis was acting, came out of the dugout to contest the call even though the White Sox were up 6-0 with two outs in the ninth inning, and Markakis has a reputation around the game for playing the game the right way. It certainly was noticed by several members in the Orioles clubhouse.

Orioles center fielder Adam Jones fumbled a ball in the 15th inning that went for his second error, but he also made a terrific play to throw out Alex Rodriguez trying to stretch a single into a double in the sixth. At this time last year, Jones' defense and focus were nightly complaints on this blog. I don't hear much about those things anymore and for good reason. Jones is playing center field at an extremely high level, a Gold Glove level. He also is playing his butt off, running the bases hard and picking his spots to drop down bunts. Like everyone else, I would like to see him mix in a few more walks and swing at fewer bad pitches, but to me, Jones' continued development has been one of the Orioles' biggest positives this season.

Jim Johnson's stuff last night was just ridiculous. Fastball in the mid to upper 90's. Heavy sinker. Johnson throws the ball hard and over the plate so regardless of how good his stuff is at times, he's going to give up some hits and runs. But there are some nights where hitters don't stand a chance against him.

Teammates and Orioles brass love a lot of things about Zach Britton, but I think the two biggest traits that they admire is his confidence and competitiveness. Hours after his outing ended and he met the media last night, Britton was still visibly ticked off that the Orioles didn't win the game. He wasn't angry because he again got no run support, or he didn't get a win against the Yankees. He was angry because his team lost, saying that regardless how he pitched – and allowing one unearned run over seven innings against New York is a quality outing by any standard - it was a bad day because of the end result. This kid has front of the rotation stuff and a front of the rotation attitude.

I don't think this means anything, but first baseman Derrek Lee was on the top step of the dugout with his batting gloves on and a bat in his hand, on at least two different occasions last night. I'm not sure if it was a decoy to try to convince Yankees manager Joe Girardi that he was available or Lee was just trying to stay in the game and be there for his teammates. Lee is dealing with a strained left oblique and said yesterday that he wasn't planning on doing any baseball activities. So my assumption was that there wasn't even a fleeting thought of getting him in the game. But either way, I thought it was worth mentioning. Lee also made it a point to approach Brandon Snyder in the clubhouse after the game and offer some encouraging words. Snyder couldn't get out of the way of Matt Wieters' bouncing single in the 15th inning, resulting in an out.

This probably doesn't fit in this space, but I didn't want it to get lost in this morning's notebook. Orioles top prospect Manny Machado, who hasn't played since dislocating his left kneecap on May 5, has headed to Sarasota to begin a rehab program and baseball activities. I'd expect him to be down there for around a week before returning to Single-A Delmarva's lineup.

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