Going into last night's game in Atlanta the Orioles were 24-9 when they scored first, that according to MASN's Gary Thorne. That's a pretty decent record, as well as a good sample size. So you can imagine what most people were thinking when Mark Reynolds broke a 0-0 tie with a two-run homer in the fourth inning. Suddenly the O's seemed to have a bit of excitement back in their step. Jake Arrieta was pitching very well to that point in the game, and the Birds were leading. In the last of the inning the Braves recorded two quick outs before Chipper Jones doubled, followed up by a hit batsman (incidentally replays were inconclusive as to whether or not the ball actually hit the batter's back foot). So at this point while the wheels are turning and so forth, in the back of my mind I'm still thinking that there are two outs. So when Dan Uggla sent a screaming liner to left field, I figured that the inning was over; what I didn't anticipate was the ball popping out of Luke Scott's glove as he went to his knees to catch the ball. (The play was ruled a base hit due to the fact that the ball was hit so poignantly.) However at that point only one run scored and the O's still led 2-1; the grand slam came later in the inning.
In fairness to the Orioles, they did make a good attempt at a comeback in this game on the heels of a second big bop from Reynolds as well as one from Nick Markakis. However when things are going badly, things go badly. If a margin for error exists on this team, it's pretty slight. One thing that other teams seem to do to the Orioles is take advantage of the mistakes that they make, or opprotunities that are presented. Luke Scott drops the above-mentioned line drive, and before you know it Atlanta leads 5-2. In the top of the eighth, Mark Reynolds (who had already homered twice) appeared to hit a fair ball to third baseman Chipper Jones who threw him out at first base. However third base umpire Brian Runge incorrectly ruled the ball foul. That's not an error or a mistake on the Braves' part, however it was certainly an opprotunity of which the Orioles could have taken advantage. Reynolds struck out swinging for the first out. Granted the Orioles did put two runners in scoring position later in the inning, however Nick Markakis flew out to centerfield to retire the side.
Sometimes a margin for error isn't even in a team's control, as is evidenced by the above-mentioned fair/foul call. However the fact remains that plays as such can become part of that margin for error. Luke Scott wasn't given an error for his mishap in the field, however it's probably a play that he should have made. The Braves took advantage, as good teams do. One of the big issues that's illustrated here is that the Orioles are often letting one thing beat them. If Luke Scott catches that ball, the inning is over and the O's still lead 2-0. In the grand scheme of a game, that's a fairly small mistake that shouldn't stick out too much. Yet the O's allowed that one mistake to in essence beat them. You have to overcome issues as such in games, otherwise it gets inside your head and eventually things get worse.
Desperate times call for desperate measures I suppose. The Orioles need to string together some wins in order to keep themselves afloat this season. Let's just say that if an umpire was to make a horrible call in today's game, I wouldn't necessarily mind seeing Buck Showalter "go Earl Weaver" on the guy and get himself run. That's an old trick in sports which serves to light a fire under a team. Former Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams (and it still hurts to throw that "former" in there!) used to do it all the time with "purpose technicals." Former Oriole manager Dave Trembley even tried to do it a few times early last season, and in one specific altercation at first base in Oakland I seem to remember the umpire almost refusing to toss Trembley. (I suppose that umpires know that in many cases guys are trying to get tossed and they see that as them being used in a sense.) Ultimately someone needs to light something under this team, otherwise they're going to mope their way into spring training 2012.