Nobody gave the Orioles much of a chance in the one-game Wild Card playoff against the Rangers last Friday, so it’s not surprising that they entered the ALDS as the underdogs against the big bad Yankees. However, this series followed a very similar path to how their regular season played out. They surprised, they overachieved, they made the Yankees sweat. But ultimately, they fell a little short.
The Orioles lost to the Yankees 3-1 this evening in a decisive Game 5 at Yankee Stadium. They just couldn’t get much going against CC Sabathia, collecting just four hits while striking out eight times. They had their best chance in the eighth inning, but failed to capitalize on a bases-loaded situation.
Save for a rough ninth inning by closer Jim Johnson in Game 1, the pitching wasn’t the problem for the Orioles in this series. They allowed three runs or less in four out of the five games. None of their starting pitchers allowed more than two runs. But their bats didn’t show up. Aside from Nate McLouth, that is. It’s tough to win when you hit .187 as a team. To name some prominent examples, Adam Jones went 2-for-23 (.087) while Matt Wieters went 3-for-20 (.150) and Mark Reynolds went 3-for-19 (.158). One wonders how this series might have played out had Nick Markakis been healthy.
While the Orioles fell a little short in this series, it doesn’t diminish what they accomplished this season. Buck Showalter’s group managed to breathe life back into a fan base at a time where many long-suffering fans in the Baltimore/D.C. area were tempted to switch their allegiance to the Nationals. It’s unlikely that the Orioles will be able to repeat their historic success in one-run and extra-inning games next season, so if they are going to win again, they will probably need a new formula. But the franchise is alive and relevant again. And that’s a good thing for baseball.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.