Any opportunity to take in a ball game is a good one, even if the Reds aren't involved. Tonight I braved the forecast rain and set out for Camden Yards to catch the O's play the Blue Jays with my brother and free tickets from my cousin. What follows after the jump is a recap, complete with some stats that will make you all swoon all the more over our division-leading and just generally awesome Cincinnati Reds!
- We got 15 minutes up the road, and I realized I forgot the tickets. Uh... Not the best start, but about the only hiccup on the night. We still made it before the game started. In fact, with the Reds inducting Larkin into the Reds Hall of Fame today, the Orioles were actually having their own inductions, and we got there just in time to see it. (I think the rain made it a little late getting started.) The three inductees were some scout I'd never heard of, Mike Mussina, and Rich Dauer. Growing up in the area, the latter two meant something to me. Mussina was the O's ace when I was in college in the Baltimore area, and he was exactly the pitcher we want Cueto to be in October. Dauer was an all-glove no-hit (spoiler alert: major foreshadowing) second baseman on some great Orioles teams in the early 1980s. I grew up watching that team with my grandfather - a big Reds fan who contributed heavily to my Reds fandom - who lived with us in the DC area after spending virtually all of his life in southern West Virginia.
- After the inductions wrapped up, they played the Canadian and US national anthems since the Blue Jays were tonight's opponent. My brother, whose wife is Canadian, and I got a kick out of the fact that they play the Canadian anthem in front of a bunch of American fans for a team from Canada that has almost no (Lawrie?) Canadian representation on it whatsoever. Do they really swell up with pride when the anthem is belted out?
- On to the game. The first thing that caught my attention was that, even though the Orioles could re-gain a tie for the second AL wild card spot with a win, these teams SUCKED. I looked up at the scoreboard, and noticed that the O's had no .300 hitters in the lineup. Then I noticed that they only had two guys hitting better than .280. Wait! Their third-highest batting average in the lineup was (hold your breath) .256. Holy crap! And this is supposed to be the good team! How bad must Toronto be? What?!?! Their third best hitter was only at .254! And one of their only two hitting better than that had about 60 ABs on the season. In fact, Edwin Encarnacion had the highest batting average of the players participating in this game at .294(although I think Markakis may have passed him before the end of the night). I'll also say that when E5 was at the plate, the ball sounded different coming off his bat (on a home run as well as a long foul ball) than off anyone else's bat. Now I know batting average is a relatively useless stat, but I think it's generally safe to assume that most guys hitting under .260 aren't all that good at the plate.
- Oh, along those same lines, I should mention that neither the O's (JJ Hardy) nor the Blue Jays (Mike McKoy???) number 2 hitters were close to having a .300 OBP. It's not just the Reds!
- If that doesn't make you defend Dusty a little, this might. There was some truly awful managing in this game. After the Blue Jays took an early 2-0 lead on an E5 homer, the game settled down for a bit. THe second time through the lineup, the O's got their first two hitters on with no one out. That brought up number three hitter, Nate McLouth (seriously) sporting his .254 average. With runners on first and second and down two in the 4th inning, HE'S BUNTING! Did I mention he's their third hitter?! (Joey, get well soon.) Of course, he bunt pops foul for an out and no one advances. Nice work. More managerial fun... Bottom of the 5th, and the Orioles have just taken the lead. Chris Davis (of the three homer game the night before) steps to the plate. Brendan Morrow, the Blue Jays starter, had thrown 87 pitches in a 4-2 game. He didn't appear gassed to me. He'd given up a couple of runs, but there was a runner on first and two out. Seemed within he reach to get out of the inning at least. Still, time to bring in the LOOGY to face Davis. WAIT! What? That's right, we needed a LOOGY in the fifth inning. Of course, Davis singles, which means... time to get the righty. At this point, I'm thinking, is the manager just stalling? Then my brother pointed out to me that it was the bottom of the FIFTH inning, so even if the forecast rain came suddenly upon the stadium, we had an official game as soon as the Orioles took the lead. I don't have a clue if the manager just lost track of the inning or if he really was trying to play match-ups in the 5th inning of a relatively meaningless (to his team, anyway) game. In any case, one more head-scratcher for you. Later in the game, the O's led 7-2 with a running on third. Batter hits a ground ball up the middle, a tough, but playable ball for the shortstop except... the infield was drawn in?! I didn't get that either. Dusty isn't great at the Xs and Os, but he's not this bad either.
- OK, on to some good stuff. Matt Wieters stunk it up at the plate, but he's amazing behind the plate. He threw out all three runners stealing against him, and he was flawless each time. Quick getting rid of the ball and accurate on his throws. The third was the most impressive... Omar Vizquel (he's still playing!) attempted to steal second on a 70ish mph curveball in the dirt. Wieters picked it clean off the ground and let loose a laser. VIzquel was out by so far that he tried to turn around and go back! Hanigan calls a good game back there, handles the staff well, and gets the pitchers those borderline calls, but Wieters release and arm was truly something to behold.
- The difference between these two teams was basically the defense. The O's appear to me to be pretty good, while the Jays were embarrassingly sloppy at times. The rookie, Machado, appears to have quite the arm at third for the O's, and I think he'll handle SS well enough for the team to try to move JJ Hardy in the offseason. Nate McLouth seemed to get no jump on the ball, but otherwise, the O's looked pretty good on defense. Omar Vizquel made a very nice play at third for the Blue Jays, but they had a couple of errors and a passed ball that were all just ugly.
- Perhaps the highlight of the night for me was when the Orioles made brought in a LIDR... Robert Andino (please, someone post the picture - you know the one) was brought in to replace Ryan Flaherty. That's right, they brought in a defensive replacement for the guy hitting .205. .205! This is a potential wild card team. For the game tonight, more than half of the position players on the field hit less than .240. At one point, I found myself thinking, "Mike Leake would actually be a viable threat on either of these teams."