We've all head the concept of "leaving it all out on the field." That generally means play as hard as you can and don't hold anything back in the game. Having said that, I've never bought into the whole psychological aspect of sports in that I fail to believe that there's anything really to do with..."feelings" in a game. However any good tydings that the Orioles might have had in the wake of taking two-of-three from Cincinnati were in fact left out on the field this past Sunday afternoon. In dropping the first two with St. Louis, the O's have failed to capitalize on the momentum that they had coming out of Sunday's win. The worst part about these two losses has been that the Cardinals were struggling coming into this series. They've been flailing in the wind since they lost Albert Pujols two weeks ago to injury. However as has been the case with numerous other teams over the years, they seem to have found themselves against the Orioles.
Whereas the Orioles had 16 extra-base hits over the weekend against the Reds, they've managed only four thus far against the Cardinals. Perhaps it isn't so much extra-base hits as it is hitting in the clutch. Last night in the fifth inning the Orioles had the bases loaded with nobody out, and they let St. Louis starter Chris Carpenter off the hook. At the time St. Louis had a 5-1 lead (which ended up being the final score), and this presented the Orioles with a chance to eat into that lead just a bit. Even had they put across only two runs at least it would have changed the scope of the game. An extra-base hit would have been perfect there, but even a single would have presumably scored two runs.
So the Birds will try to salvage one against the Cardinals tonight. Somehow I feel as if there's a chance the entire season and perhaps the future hinges on this one game. As it stands now, the Orioles are seven games under .500 which is the most they've been all season. A loss tonight continues that trend, and perhaps sends the Orioles season into a spiraling doldrum. However Brian Matusz's struggles of late have been well documented in terms of velocity and command of the strike zone. So if Matusz struggles tonight, does he go down or back to the DL? That's why I say that this evening's game is shaping up to be of cosmic importance for this year and for the future. We know that there have been some issues with Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen's command at various points. So now if this continues to be the case with Matusz, does that mean that the Orioles basically whiffed on three of their prized young starters?
As Marty would say to the Doc, this is getting heavy. I don't personally believe that Matusz was fools-gold or anything, because I've seen what he can do. However I do wonder if he wasn't totally ready to come back from his injury. Nevertheless, the O's can't worry about that per se right now, as they have to go out and win tonight's game moreso for this year than the future at the moment. If they win they would have dropped two-of-three to the Cardinals at home, however that would start the road trip a lot better than being swept. With Buck Showalter saying earlier in the week that Vladimir Guerrero might not be long for the cleanup role if his production doesn't improve, I'll be interested to see who the O's bat cleanup this weekend in Atlanta when they lose the DH again. Another reason why tonight's game is so important is because leading up to the all-star break the Orioles will go through Atlanta, Texas, and Boston (where the O's just love to play). Getting that swing started on a positive note at home is of supreme importance, which is why the entire team and Brian Matusz need to come through in the clutch tonight. A win would give the Orioles a good feeling as they hit the road. Maybe there's more to this sports psychologic stuff than meets-the-eye.