A close game and the Orioles going to the bullpen? That was money in the bank all season long. But now it’s the playoffs and nothing that came before mattered. And tonight the Orioles faithful saw something unusual: their All-Star closer get beat around and turn a 2-2 tie game in the ninth into a 7-2 loss in a New York minute.
The O’s and Yanks played it tight for eight innings, with runs scoring for New York on an Ichiro double and a Mark Teixeira single. Those hits surrounded a Nate McLouth two-run single. Baltimore and New York remained tied at two from the fourth through ninth inning.
The turning point came in the bottom of the eighth when J.J. Hardy reached on a leadoff double. CC Sabathia, hovering around a hundred pitches, may have been yanked in other circumstances, but Joe Girardi kept him in and was rewarded for it: the big guy struck out Adam Jones, induced a foul out by Matt Wieters and then got Mark Reynolds to ground out to short.
Buck Showalter called on Jim Johnson to handle the ninth. Not a bad call, actually. The bullpen has been the O’s meal ticket all year and Johnson hadn’t given up a run since September 8 en route to a 51 save season. He immediately gave up a run, however, in the form of a dinger to Russell Martin. After that the wheels fell off, with Johnson surrendering five runs total on an assortment of hits and a sacrifice fly.
Hard to criticize Buck Showalter for going with his closer in a tie game at home. Sometimes, though, things just don’t work out the way they had been working out before.
The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.
Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.
Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.
As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.
Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.
Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.