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Even in defeat, Orioles' makeshift lineup holds its own vs. Red Sox

The Orioles lost, 5-3, in 10 innings Friday to a Boston Red Sox club that had only three members of its Opening Day roster in the starting lineup.

So, in a sense, that's a disappointment. But here's something I rarely do: a little glass-half-full analysis.

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The Orioles took a game to extra innings in which they didn't have Matt Wieters, Manny Machado, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy, Adam Jones or Nick Markakis.

If I had told you in April that such a lineup would exist in September, you would have had serious concerns. You probably would have considered shelving your orange-and-black merchandise by Memorial Day.

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A game like Friday's puts this season into perspective. Alejandro De Aza had three hits; he was in Chicago five weeks ago. Nelson Cruz had three hits; no one wanted to pay him in January. Delmon Young had a pinch-hit triple; he showed up at January's Orioles minicamp looking for a job.

A loss in September for a club that already has clinched a division is difficult to break down. Especially when three of the club’s best players Hardy, Jones and Markakis  are sitting out to get some rest before the postseason starts. (Markakis is also dealing with a bruised shoulder.)

It's even tougher when the club you're playing also is experimenting with its lineup.

Yes, there were some slightly concerning moments Friday: Darren O’Day gave up his third homer this month a two-run shot in the 10th to David Ortiz after allowing three for the entire season heading into September. But he hasn’t given up a run this month besides the home runs. He has been scored on three times in eight September outings, but also just three times in his past 20 appearances. He’s human, and this isn’t his best stretch, but it’s not a truly alarming stretch, either.

"I don't think a whole lot about that," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I know it's a break from the level he's spoiled us at, but I hope that's our biggest issue going forward. Darren's fine."

De Aza got thrown out at the plate Friday night, and you never like to see that. But the Orioles decided to force the Red Sox and Cuban defector Rusney Castillo, in his second major league  game, to make a play. And he did. The Orioles took the chance because, frankly, they knew runs would be at a premium with the lineup they were using.

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"We knew, coming in, he had a good arm. Sometimes you make them throw you out. Most times, it works for you," Showalter said. "There's no substitute for game speed. He came in here with that reputation, but if you held everybody [at third] against anybody that had a reputation for throwing good, you'd never send anybody."

The bottom line is that Showalter's makeshift lineup held its own. It had 10 hits. It scored three runs and nearly a fourth. So it can be serviceable, even without some of the club's best players. We probably already knew that. But that was probably the most interesting thing about Friday night.

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