With yesterday's 7-5 win over Cincinnati, the Birds snatched two-of-three from the Reds at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. I probably shouldn't even put it like that, because saying that the O's "snatched" two-of-three indicates that the Reds were entitled to the games. Nevertheless, this was an Oriole team that was fresh off of losing a slugfest to the Reds on Saturday night. In Cincinnati's 10-5 victory, 13 of the 15 runs scored in the game were off of homers. The difference of course was that many of the Reds' homers occured with multiple people on base.
That provides a nice segueway into yesterday's game, in which the O's defeated Homer Bailey who was fresh off the DL. Jeremy Guthrie picked up his third win of the season in pitching 5.2 innings and giving up four runs over six hits. This is one of those deals where if you remove Guthrie's performance from context it almost looks as if he was lucky to win the game. However Guthrie had great stuff from the beginning yesterday. The defense behind him seemed to let him down on numerous occaisions. In what's becoming a growing trend of late, Mark Reynolds committed two errors at third base. On one of them he actually made a spectacular play to field the ball, only to make a poor throw. Reynolds has had a rough go with the O's thus far. Don't forget that his batting average is now up to .227 after hovering well below Mendonza for the first part of the season. However now his glove appears to have holes in it, and his arm can't throw properly. I recognize and accept that people are going to make mistakes in all walks of life. However...the errors are starting to pile up at the hot corner. To go back to Guthrie for a moment, those errors forced him to throw extra pitches. If a guy throws 111 pitches through 5.2 innings you would probably say that he needs to economize. However if you put that back into the context of having to work harder for outs after errors, that makes a difference.
The O's appeared to have yesterday's game in well in command once they got on the scoreboard. Nick Markakis' RBI-single in the third put the O's ahead 1-0. In the last of the fourth, Adam Jones hit a rainmaker popup in the infield which was misplayed by pitcher Homer Bailey, catcher Ramon Hernandez, and almost the entire Reds' infield. The ball fell harmlessly to the ground on the lip of the grass on the first base line, and Jones was safe at first. After a Guerrero single, Derrek Lee hit his second home run of the series, and I'm not sure it's landed yet. And even while having a horrible day in the field, Mark Reynolds redeemed himself just a bit by sending a solo HR into the visitors' bullpen in left center. After a Brandon Phillips solo HR in the top of the fifth, the O's led 5-1, and Guthrie was pitching well. Game over...
...au contraire! Cincinatti put a couple of men on in the top of the sixth, and with one run in and two runners on (after a Brandon Phillips walk) they finally chased Guthrie from the game. Clay Rapada came into the game with the assignment of getting lefty Joey Votto out (with two gone). Rapada walked Votto on a full count in an at-bat that included several very close pitches (including ball four). Rapada was then lifted in favor of Jim Johnson, who came on with one run in, two gone, and the bases juiced. Johnny Gomes and Fred Lewis were the next batters in the order, and they were set to face Johnson, who's been the Orioles' most effective reliever this season. Again, let's pull this out of context: both Gomes and Lewis walked to make the score 5-4. It sounds like Jimmy Johnson wasn't pitching very well. Having said that, let's put it back into context: once again, there were several close calls that went the Reds' way. I wouldn't say that the pitches were even justifiably close calls on the part of home plate umpire Alan Porter. From my Eagle Eye vantage point (great Shia Labeouf movie incidentally) it appeared that most of Johnson's pitches were strikes. The MASN pitchtrack seemed to back that up upon further review. Manager Buck Showalter, who was as angry as I've seen him this year with an umpire, was barking at Porter from the dugout after the second walk regarding the strike zone. Luckily for the Orioles, Nick Markakis came up with perhaps the biggest hit of the game when he singled home Blake Davis in the last of the inning. The momentum had clearly shifted to Cincinnati, and with an apparent rotating strike zone who knew how things would go the rest of the way.
Let's go back to the umpiring for a moment. According to the rulebook, Buck Showalter should have been ejected from the game for arguing balls and strikes. Furthermore, Adam Jones was rung up to end the sixth inning on a pitch that wasn't even close. I'm not sure I've ever seen Jones that angry with an umpire; he slammed his helmet and his gloves down in protest of a clearly atrocious call. Again, no ejection. According to former Oriole Dave Johnson on WBAL radio (who I might add did a great job filling in for Fred Manfra this past weekend), Porter didn't eject Showalter or Jones because he knew he was stinking up the joint. I would tend to agree, especially with that coming from a former player. However Porter is not only guilty of an incredibly inconsistent strike zone, he's also guilty of something that many umpires are doing these days: engaging a manager/player. When Buck Showalter was arguing with Porter from the dugout during Johnson's "walk sequence," Porter was giving it right back. Furthermore, from my vantage point it appeared that he was almost instigating an argument with Showalter, and later Jones. Joe West is probably the most celebrated of all umpires who does this, but it sets a horrible trend. If a manager or player gets out of control with an umpire, he has the right to run him out of the game. However what happens when an ump instigates an argument, and then (and only then) the player or manager gets out of control? The guy still gets tossed, and possibly fined.
I suppose my point is that while I'm not sure how umpires are aududicated, perhaps the quality of some of these guys needs to be looked at. I will say this to Porter's credit; in between innings he made a point of standing on the third base line, which indicates that he didn't want to be near the Oriole dugout. However umpires are supposed to uphold the professional standards of the game, and in engaging players and coaches in arguments they're actually taking away from those standards of professionalism. Luckily for the Orioles, Luke Scott added on another homer before the end, although Ramon Hernandez did as well for the Reds. Ultimately the Birds got the win in the game, and the series. After an off-day today, the struggling St. Louis Cardinals come to town tomorrow night. Seeing a legendary and well-respected franchise like the Red Birds at Camden Yards should be a special treat for Baltimore fans.