Keep in mind, the Baltimore Orioles seemingly have no issue with power-hitting clubs like themselves. They handle New York, Boston, and Toronto fairly easily. The same is true of Washington when the teams play, among other teams. It’s the small ball teams with whom they struggle.
And my theory is that the issue lies in the name; small ball is just that: small. Teams such as the Minnesota Twins don’t look for the big blasts or the majestic home runs. They’re happy with just the one run here or there. So while teams like the Orioles are sitting on fastballs that they can hit out, small ball teams look just to get on base and they’re happy with that.
Small ball or not, Chris Tillman needs to be better than he was in today’s game. Tillman’s line: 5.0 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 2 BB, 3 K. The issue was that at the beginning Tillman was throwing ball one almost immediately to every batter. That enabled Minnesota hitters to work from ahead, and they could in fact sit on pitches they wanted to get on base.
Minnesota put three runs on the board in the first, and two in the second. That drained the energy from the crowd right off the bat. Granted however, the Birds did make a comeback in this one to make it close. They got solo home runs off of Hardy in the third, and Davis and Schoop in the seventh. They did have the go-ahead run at the plate in the last of the ninth, but they recorded the final out and the game was over.
One mark of the Orioles has also been that they seem to be forced into playing their opponents’ game, which in this case was small ball. Yes they hit three home runs this afternoon – but three solo home runs. They couldn’t get anything in with any runners on base.
So why is it that small ball always seems to come up and bit the O’s? And the answer to that is even the worst Oriole hitter is looking to hit-for-power. So they’ll let pitches go by unless they think there’s a chance the ball can be driven. And that’s why strikeouts can be so high.
Instead, teams like Minnesota and Kansas City don’t let good pitches go by. Their attitudes appear to be that just getting on base makes a difference. And of course, it does. So whether they can drive the pitch or not, they’re looking for balls they can put in play.
I think it’s overly simplistic to suggest that the O’s should simply play small ball. Keep in mind that they’re a roster full of poewr hitters. If you try to take guys out of their element things will get worse. So the only way forward is to continue with big ball, and hope their bats snap out of the funk in whcih they’ve been.