Slumping Orioles try to play small ball, but that doesn't work either

The Orioles couldn’t get anything going against Red Sox knuckleball pitcher Steven Wright, which didn’t make Monday night look a whole lot different from most any other night this season.

To their credit, however, they took what they could get and tried to make a small impression if they couldn’t make a big one.

It almost worked.

Wright allowed just four hits over 6 2/3 innings — all of them singles -- before he was forced out of the game when three straight Orioles reached base with two outs in the seventh.

But the attempted rally wasn’t exactly a laser show. Chance Sisco was hit by one of those fluttering K-balls and Jace Peterson bunted for the O’s fourth hit of the game before Joey Rickard worked Wright for a walk to load the bases.

That brought Adam Jones to the plate and Red Sox manager Alex Cora to the mound, which made a lot of sense since Jones had two of the four Orioles hits and had reached base his first three times up.

Hard-throwing reliever Joe Kelly came on to face Jones, who struck out on three big swings and the game remained a scoreless tie.

Through nine innings, the Orioles put 10 runners on base. Five of them walked. Four of them singled. Sisco added to his growing collection of bruises.He’s been hit by pitches nine times this season.

So, for all those fans who think the Orioles ought to play small ball, this game showed that it works only if somebody can drive the lead runner home.

Of course, there is always the question of credit and blame after another meager offensive performance. Was Wright that good or were the Orioles that bad?

“It’s tough to tell the way we’re swinging the bats,’’ manager Buck Showalter said. “Early on, we hit some balls sharp, on the button, right at time, and usually that’s a good sign of things to come off a knuckleballer.

“When you get the weak popups, not much height on them, and topped balls, you go, ‘This could be a tough challenge.’ But it wasn’t that way early on and then it kind of became that way as, I think, some anxiety sets in for us not scoring runs. So, give him some credit, but I also things there were some other things working in his favor that we’re providing.”

There were other examples. Jones singled with one out in the third inning and moved up on a passed ball. He was stranded at second base.

Peterson came up again with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and drew a walk. He stole second base to put the sudden-death winning run in scoring position. Then Pedro Álvarez came up to pinch hit and struck out against reliever Brandon Workman.

The Orioles did not get an extra-base hit until Danny Valencia’s two-out double in the 10th inning, which also didn’t produce the desired result. The rest of the way, not one of the nine Orioles batters who came to the plate in the game put the ball in play. Seven struck out and two walked.

Not that the Red Sox were pounding the ball all over the park. They managed just three singles in eight innings against Orioles starter Dylan Bundy, who has pitched seven innings or more and has given up three hits or fewer in four of his past six starts.

They eventually would load the bases in the 12th with two hits and a walk against reliever Mychal Givens, then scored their two runs on a pair of sacrifice flies.

peter.schmuck@baltsun.com

twitter.com/SchmuckStop

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

 

Become a subscriber today to support sports commentary like this. Start getting full access to our signature journalism for just 99 cents for the first four weeks.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
52°