Manager Buck Showalter said he doesn’t think being swept by the Boston Red Sox at home this week will snowball, and roll the Orioles directly away from postseason contention – even though Thursday’s loss allowed Detroit to jump over them for the second Wild Card spot.
“Not with this group. It is what it is as far as the competition. It’s like how did (the Red Sox) rebound when we went into their park and beat them a couple times this year? Or beat them here? How did the Yankees rebound when we swept them?” Showalter said. “That’s just something that people that haven’t been in that arena can’t get a feel for. And you want it to stop. Or do what it takes to make it stop. That’s the level you are dealing with here.”
There are two realities here:
One, the Orioles have shown nothing on this homestand – losing six of eight – to make anyone think that the snowball isn’t already heading downhill at an unstoppable rate.
It’s the first time all year that they are not in a playoff position – either leading the division or holding onto a Wild Card spot.
“I think you’ve got be realistic about where we are at this point after losing four. It’s kind of time to light a fire under our butt because those other teams playing for the Wild Card are right there,” closer Zach Britton said “You kind of need to look over your shoulder if you want to live in reality. You can’t just assume if we lose another game here and there, it’s OK. We need to find a way to win games. It’s plain and simple.”
Two, these Orioles are still in the thick of the Wild Card race and have three, seven-game winning streaks this season. We know they can get hot. And that’s the message they are trying to focus on.
“Believe it or not, we’re still in the hunt for the playoffs. The way people make it seem sometimes it feels like we’re 40 games under .500. That’s not the case. Disappointing? Absolutely. But we didn’t put the last nail in our own coffin or anything,” catcher Caleb Joseph said. “We’re gonna show up, we’re gonna give the (Arizona Diamondbacks) everything we have the next three games. If we win three in a row, now we’re back maybe where we want to be. We still control our own destiny and that’s the main thing.”
Tillman’s rough start
When Chris Tillman has an outing like he did Thursday night, the first thing you think of is whether the Orioles’ most consistent starter is OK physically.
He says that’s not an issue.
“Positive. I felt great. Actually, I felt really good tonight, honest to god,” Tillman said. “That’s disappointing to feel that good and not get the team deep into the game or give the team a chance. It’s frustrating.”
Tillman doesn’t usually show such a lack of command like he did Thursday – five hits, three walks and three runs in 1 2/3 innings. He threw 63 pitches, only 37 for strikes, while getting just five outs.
You could pin a lot of his struggles on a patient and good hitting Red Sox team. And surely that’s part of it. But Tillman has dominated against Boston in his career, going 10-3 with a 2.74 ERA in 19 previous outings.
It was Tillman’s shortest start of the season, and his shortest overall since recording just four outs while surrendering six runs at Toronto on June 21, 2015.
The last time Tillman didn’t pitch into the third inning was on Aug. 20 against Houston at Camden Yards. He gave up six runs in that outing and then was placed on the disabled list with right shoulder bursitis.
On Thursday, he couldn’t locate his pitches. It’s nothing more than that, he said.
Papi celebration misses mark
I heard from plenty of people who weren’t happy that the Orioles planned a ceremony Thursday to acknowledge the retirement of Boston Red Sox slugger David “Big Papi” Ortiz.
Ortiz has been one of most despised players in Camden Yards history. He plays for a division rival. He kills the Orioles: 55 homers against the Orioles; 30 at Camden Yards. And he’s shown plenty of plate petulance over the years, complaining about strike zones and once using his bat to destroy the bullpen phone in the visitors’ dugout.
Showalter has joked in the past that the Orioles should give Ortiz a broken phone as a going-away present.
I thought it was just a joke. But the Orioles went through with it.
It was funny in a ‘he’s-not-laughing-awkward-kind-of-way.’
During the on-field ceremony – in which the center field video screen showed Ortiz homering several times against the Yankees and then the famous phone-bashing incident – center fielder Adam Jones presented Ortiz with the exact phone he destroyed on July 27, 2013.
Jones and Ortiz are friendly, and Big Papi smiled and laughed when Jones came out, but otherwise didn’t seem thrilled about the situation, He didn’t watch his phone-slam video on the big screen. And he left his gift on the grass as he walked off the field
Now, the Orioles also donated $10,000 to the World Pediatric Project to help critically ill children in Ortiz’s native Dominican Republic. And that was classy.
But maybe they just should have stopped there. Walked him onto the field, given him a check and walked him off. No video, no phone, a quick “here’s some money for your charity, now go back into the dugout.”
It was an uncomfortable few minutes. But I will say this: I’m sure many Orioles fans loved it – reminding Ortiz of one of his worst moments in Baltimore.
Mancini booms again
Tuesday night was a huge evening for Trey Mancini, the rookie who homered in the second at-bat of his big-league debut.
He homered again Thursday in his second major league start. He’s the first Orioles to have home runs as his first two big-league hits.
“He’s presented himself well. We like him, that’s why we think he has a chance to be a contributor down the road,” Showalter said. “He’s done well in a few at-bats. We’ll see how things go down the road. So far, so good.”