Orioles Cannot Complete Sweep; The Road Trip Ahead…

The Orioles could not finish their three game sweep over Boston, and they lost 6-3 on Thursday night. Chris Tillman had a so-so outing, the bullpen could not hold a tie throughout the middle of last night’s game and the offense got handcuffed after the second inning.

Despite the loss, the Orioles did finish off a successful homestand, going 7-3, and sticking around in the playoff hunt. They still hold one of the two coveted playoff spots heading into today, and trail the Yankees by 6 games in the American League East.

Heading into a critical road trip against the Tigers this weekend and Rangers next week, they are 64-54, ten games above .500 on August 17th.

It is still amazing to ponder that with this team.

Tillman struggled on Thursday night and was just off. He’s been a stabilizing force for a team that has needed pitching and has more or less avoided the problems that plagued in him in the past.

Despite Tillman giving up only a run in the first four innings, his outing was painful to watch. His pitch count approached 90 before the fifth inning, and he was making the same mistakes that we’ve seen in the past.

Tillman was throwing too many balls, not hitting the strike zone at times, and watching some of his at-bats against Boston were a painful experience to watch.

He allowed the Red Sox to tie up the game at three in the fifth inning. Tillaman gave up a wild pitch in the fifth inning that allowed Carl Crawford to score; a few minutes later, Dustin Pedroia crossed home plate on an Adrian Gonzalez sacrifice flyball. He gave up his first run in the second inning as Scott Podsednik plated in Nick Punto – who had walk to reach base.

The young hurler only lasted 4 2/3 innings, and gave up three runs. He threw 110 pitches and threw two wild pitches.

It was not a pretty outing for Tillman. As much as he improved this season, glimpses of the 2010-11 version reappeared, and it was cringe worthy at times. However, he has been a lot more consistent this season, and has bolstered the rotation.

The bullpen could not hold the lead as reliever Luis Ayala allowed three runs to cross the plate; however, Dustin Pedroia dribbled a soft liner that Manny Machado that he could not make a play on. That hit plated Podsednik and continued a huge frame for the Red Sox.

Afterwards, Adrian Gonzalez and Cody Ross followed up with back-to-back singles to give Boston a 6-3 lead.

Ayala (4-4) would take the loss for the Orioles.

Baltimore’s offense got rolling early as they scored twice in the first inning as Adam Jones plated in two with an RBI double; thereafter, in the second inning, Mark Reynolds went yard hitting his 12th homer of the season, giving the Orioles a 3-1 lead.

The Orioles had a chance to pad their lead in the second inning, but could not execute. A failed bunt by Nick Markakis with runners on first and second base, led to a double play, and it was followed by Omar Quintanilla – who was at second – being thrown out by Cody Ross at home to end the frame.

However, after Baltimore scored their runs, Clay Buchholz (11-3) – who was on the mound for Boston – settled in and earned the victory on Thursday.

It looked like Baltimore got to the Boston hurler early; however, he only seemed to get better and stifled the them in the latter innings. He went eight innings on the night, gave up three runs, struck eight and gave up seven hits.

Tonight, the Orioles head into the Motor City and square off against Justin Verlander.

As we all know, Verlander in his last start dominated the Birds, and is obviously one of the best pitchers in baseball. Tommy Hunter takes the hill for Baltimore and they’ll need him to be on his game against a tough Detroit lineup.

The Baltimore pitching has been much improved this month, and they’ll need to keep up the consistency with a makeshift rotation. No matter what the rest of the baseball world thinks, the Orioles are contenders and need to play like one.

They’ll need to win as many games as they can in the final 44 contests. If the Orioles go .500 for the rest of the season, it will be an 86-win campaign; however, that may not be enough considering the caliber of the teams that are also looking to play in October.

If Baltimore can go 3-3 on the road trip, 4-2, or better than that, they’ll be in control of their own destiny for sure.

It will be a tough road trip, but there’s no reason to doubt that the Orioles cannot compete with those two squads.