Orioles notes and observations (dwindling chances, bullpen choices, Jones' outfield play)

I keep being asked whether the Orioles clubhouse is demoralized -- or at the least frustrated -- each time they lose a close game this month.

Demoralized? No. The Orioles are still just 1 1/2 games back of the last American League wild card spot with 17 games to play.

Frustrated? Well, I sure hope so. There have been so many games in the past month that they could have -- should have -- won that they blew either through cracks in the bullpen or an inability to get runners in from scoring positions.

These guys really don’t get too high or too low, and that’s normally a good thing. But, that said, they need to go on a run -- and quickly -- if they expect to get to the postseason. And since they’ve had only one five-game winning streak this season (one win at the end of the first half and four wins to start the second half), it’s fair to question whether they can do it.

Are they steady? Yes. Consistently good when they have to be? Haven’t seen that in 2013.

The sense is that the winner of that second wild card spot is the club that puts together a legitimate winning streak during this stretch. These Orioles are either due -- or can’t do it.

** A lot was made of Buck Showalter having Tommy Hunter start the ninth against left-handed hitter Robinson Cano on Wednesday. Cano homered to give the Yankees a 5-3 lead.

Showalter could have brought in a left-hander such as Brian Matusz or Troy Patton. Another conventional move is to bring in your closer in a tied game in the ninth, and Jim Johnson was warming.

He stuck with Hunter -- and, in retrospect, it was the wrong choice.

Honestly, though, I would have done the same thing. Hunter is the Orioles best reliever right now, especially with Darren O’Day unavailable with an undisclosed ailment. Yes, Hunter is prone to giving up home runs. But I take my chances with my best power guy.

Like many of you, I wonder why we haven’t seen more lefty-lefty matchups with Showalter recently. But, frankly, Matusz had a rough August (and June; with a great April, May and July) and I’m not sure Showalter trusts him to consistently get the big lefty outs as much as he once did.

And Patton had pitched just once since giving up a homer to Cano on Aug. 31. Cano is just 1-for-9 career against Patton and 1-for-5 this year, but that one hit was the home run the last time they faced off.

For comparison’s sake, Cano is 12-for-37 (.281) with three walks against Matusz in his career and 0-for-2 with two walks this year. And, before Wednesday night, he was 5-for-15 (.333) with no walks against Hunter lifetime and 0-for-2 against him this season (prior to Wednesday).

** Adam Jones didn’t catch Curtis Granderson’s triple to left-center field in the ninth that eventually led to the game-winning run. He didn’t take a good route and the ball bounced in between Jones and the wall.

Afterward, Jones said, “It was a catchable ball. I'm not going to make any excuse. If I had another shot at it, I'd have caught it. But it was a tough play. I just didn't come up with it. I gave it all I had.”

Here’s what Showalter said: “If Adam don't catch it, it ain't catchable. The way I look at it. If he don't catch it, it's not catchable.”

My take: It was a tough play. It’s also a play I have seen Jones make before. Some center fielders wouldn’t have gotten to it. Jones did. And as a multi-Gold Glove center fielder in a pennant race he needs to make that catch.

That said, this one is not similar to the mistakes he made earlier this year. Jones really struggled in the first six weeks of the season defensively. But he has been pretty darn excellent since then. I don’t think he should be crushed for not coming up with that ball.

Criticize him when it warrants it. I don’t think Wednesday warranted it. Although, I know all the Jones haters will be out in force on that one.

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