The Baltimore Orioles found themselves to be hard-luck losers for the second consecutive game last night in Kansas City, despite a fine effort from starter Dylan Bundy. The Birds tangled in a pitching duel with the home standing Kansas City club, which allowed the Royals to play their type of game. Bundy’s line: 6.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 8 K.
You can’t ask much more of a starter than that. Neither Bundy, nor Kansas City’s starter (Duffy) figured into the decision, but they pitched to a stalemate. The Orioles left a few runners on base in the first inning, and they paid for it when Kansas City came to bat as Cain’s RBI-single gave the home team a 1-0 lead.
Whereas the Orioles couldn’t get their runners home, it took two swings for Kansas City to take the lead (back-to-back doubles). But the Birds ammended their ways one inning later when Caleb Joseph tied the game with an RBI-double. And on we played in a 1-1 tie until the fifth when Moss’ solo home run gave Kansas City a 2-1 lead.
But the Birds weren’t going quietly – they were going to find a way to tie things up. And it was a Kansas City mistake that did it. Duffy uncorked a wild pitch in the seventh which allowed Joseph to score from third. But one inning later it was another RBI-double, this time by Hosmer, which eventually did the Orioles in for good. And that’s your ballgame.
This game reminded me a lot of any one of the 2014 ALCS games with Kansas City. Somehow, no matter how hard they tried, the Orioles ended up playing Kansas City’s game of small ball. But the fact is that they couldn’t keep up in a sense. The Orioles, like most AL East teams, are a hard-throwing and hard power-hitting club. One piddly run in the first inning off of back-to-back doubles a game does not make…
…unless you’re a small ball club like Kansas City. On Joseph’s second inning RBI-double, Kansas City brought the infield in – in the second inning! Because in their minds (in the minds of small ball teams), every individual run is precious. In a way, it’s somewhat of an endearing way of looking at things. The Orioles would never bring the infield in like that in the second inning to cut off a run at the plate (so as to preserve the lead). Eighth inning, different story – but not the second. They’d surrender the run if necessary and then try to score more runs in bunches.
Yet it seems that every time the Birds go up against a small ball team, that club seemingly has the ability to con the Orioles into playing their game. And almost predictably, they’re beaten with experience. Somehow it seems so simple in the sense that big ball teams should in theory run small ball clubs out of the park. But that’s not how it seems to go.
Some might say that I’m being unfair to small ball teams a bit, especially when it seems they have somewhat of an upper hand. Maybe I am. But keep in mind that I cover an AL East team…! The style of baseball that I see is one where you try to beat your opponent down as hard as you can. This game whereby an individual run is celebrated and worth something is foreign to me. And it’s foreign to the Orioles, which is why they struggle against small ball teams.
What they need to do is find a way to flip the script and force Kansas City to play their game. They weren’t able to do it in the 2014 ALCS, and they weren’t able to do it last night. When you’re only playing for one run here and there, you aren’t going to be able to keep up against a team that can hit every pitch out of the ballpark. If the O’s can impose their will instead of the inverse, they’ll beat Kansas City.