For the fourth straight game, the Orioles were involved in a shutout Tuesday night. For the second game in a row, their offense pulled a no-show, and straddled one of their inconsistent young starters with a loss in a game that the pitcher did a good job of keeping the team in.
After falling to R.A. Dickey and the Mets 5-0 Monday, Johan Santana (W, 5-3) handcuffed the birds, who fell to the Mets again by the same score.
O’s starter Tommy Hunter’s line is not indicative of how he pitched for 5 of his 6.1 innings. Through 5, Hunter (L, 3-4) had surrendered just a single run on 3 hits and 1 walk. But with the offense withering, Hunter ran into his typical middle-inning troubles, yielding a pair of runs in the 6th on a home run from Lucas Duda, and being charged with the 2 runs that scored after he was pulled for Dana Eveland in the 7th. Manager Buck Showalter pulled Hunter in a double-switch, after the big right hander gave up hits to Omar Quintanilla and Josh Thole, then got pinch-hitter Scott Hairston to fly to left. 2 batters later, Jordany Valdespin plated 2 runs with a hit to center, and it was 5-0, Mets.
Offensively, the Orioles had their chances. The squad went 0-9 with runners in scoring position. The Orioles 2nd provided some foreshadowing of things to come, as Matt Wieters led off with his 13th double of the season, and never advanced beyond second base. Brian Roberts worked Santana for a 2-out walk in the 3rd, but he was picked off. JJ Hardy led off the 4th with a hit, and, 1-out later, advanced to third on Wieters’ second double of the night. But Santana struck out both Mark Reynolds and Steve Pearce. When Adam Jones singled and Wieters walked in the top of the 6th, it looked like the start of a 2-out rally for the Orioles. At that point, they hadn’t scored a run in their last 17.2 innings. A Reynolds pop out moved the scoreless streak to 18 innings. The birds went 3-up, 3-down against reliever Bobby Parnell in the 7th. In the 8th, Wilson Betemit led off with a single, and moved to second on a wild pitch. Brian Roberts advanced Betemit to third on a ground out. But Hardy flew out to left, and Jones grounded out to short, and the streak of frustration had reached 20 innings in succession. And, finally, in the 9th, the scoreless streak hit 21, as the Orioles were dispensed, 1-2-3. We say “finally”, but we can only hope.
The Orioles will send Brian Matusz (5-7, 4.94) to the bump Wednesday against Dillon Gee (4-5, 4.43) for the Mets. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10.
- Wieters had a good night offensively, 2-3 with 2 doubles and a walk. He was smack in the middle of everything the Orioles almost did.
- Hunter’s night would have been far worse had it not been for a terrific play by Reynolds at first. His diving stab of Daniel Murphy’s hard grounder with the bases loaded in the 4th saved at least 1 run, and probably more.
- For all the criticism Hunter has gotten (much of it justifiable), we are getting a picture of what he does well. Through the first 4 innings, Hunter is a different pitcher than he is from inning number 5, on. His ERA, BAA, and overall efficiency just tank after 4 innings, and Tuesday night was no exception. Hunter looks, physically, like a bulldog-type—the kind of guy who can give a team lots of solid innings. But looks are deceiving. Which leads to…
- …Why was Hunter even out there in the 7th inning? By the end of 6, Hunter had already given up his requisite home run. His pitches were elevated in the 6th, and he appeared to be struggling. With his history in later innings, with the offense completely sputtering, and with the birds already down 3-0, there was no room for more runs allowed. Perhaps Showalter is trying to stretch Hunter out. He had only thrown 82 pitches through 6. Perhaps 82 through 6 was enough.
- As terrific as Reynolds’ 4th inning play was, his night offensively was simply atrocious. Batting in the #5 spot in the order, Reynolds went 0-4 with a pair of strikeouts. In the second, he flew out to center with Wieters on second and no one out—an unproductive out. In the fourth, with Wieters on second, Hardy on third, and just 1-out, Reynolds could have given the Orioles a lead with a productive out. He struck out. In the sixth, he again came up with 2 on and 2-out. He ended the inning with a pop out. And in the ninth, he struck out with none on and 1-out. Reynolds left 5 men on base Tuesday. While Wieters was in the middle of everything the Orioles almost did, Reynolds was in the middle of all they didn’t do.