Shifting Gears to the East, and My Second Team

This week was a series that I had been looking forward to for a long time – at least since the last Orioles series. Unfortunately I didn’t get to enjoy it like I had planned, and things just got really weird with these games over the past few days anyway, so now I’m left with hoping that Baltimore makes it to the playoffs with their very stiff competition not only from New York, but also lurking in the West and Central divisions. I haven’t been following the team to the extent that I have followed the Mariners this year, but I have been following the O’s a little more closely than normal. There seem to be two schools of thought; those who are determined that the Orioles are going to bash their way through the playoffs with their younger roster, and those who feel that what has been happening for them this year is a fluke that will lead to an inevitable crash once the pressure is put on. Where do I fit? In the middle, like always. I am cautiously optimistic, like always; but I have been enjoying what I’ve seen so far.

The series in Seattle was a disaster from the start. Poor Hector Noesi collapsed early in the first game on Monday, allowing the O’s to smear us all over our own home grass. I started out hopeful but quickly realized that ambivalence might be a better way to go, as Noesi gave up his 7th run in the top of the 2nd inning. If the Ms couldn’t pull it out to win, they could at least help Baltimore out in the playoff run. We haven’t had a good record against them at all this year (which I realize is putting it lightly), and once I remembered that the other day, I more quietly rooted for the Birds.

I was at the game on Tuesday after about 3-4 hours of sleep and a full day of work. Erasmo Ramirez was amazing through 8 innings, and then just broke down like he’d been shot or something. I had hoped to see a complete game shutout. What I got was 11 innings of in-person baseball, an appearance by favorite Darren O’Day, a sad exhausted walk to the car, and the stifling realization once I got home that if I didn’t go to bed, the game might never end and then my Wednesday would be full of me being cranky and exhausted at work. Turned out it worked that way anyway, but it wasn’t for lack of trying to get to bed. Had I stayed up for the entire 18 innings(!!!!!), I would have been a mess yesterday. I saw multiple Tweets from various folks talking about not getting home until 2.30 in the morning. I commend them for staying  for the whole game. I do wish I could have, in spite of Seattle taking the loss. The crowd didn’t start out large, and it had thinned exponentially by the time I reluctantly walked out of the building. My difficulty sleeping this summer has really impacted my desire to stay up late, even for baseball, and, to put it bluntly, it sucks. I was happy enough to get some good pictures of O’Day, and even happier to see him pitch here, so  I consider the night a success even though I couldn’t stay and the Ms didn’t win. Sometimes you just have to take what small victories you can.

A lot of confusion this series among fans seems to be stemming from the gross misuse (or non-use) of John Jaso. Jaso was indeed called up to bat on Tuesday night. The media people even tossed up a dramatic introduction for him, complete with slow motion black and white video, and The Alan Parson Project’s “Sirius”. The crowd was happy. We were ready for Jaso to hit in what could have been a walkoff something, with a walked Miguel Olivo on base. But the Orioles brought in Brian Matusz to replace Jake Arrieta, and suddenly Jaso was gone and in his place was…Alex Liddi. I can understand wanting to match your bat to the pitcher being presented to you, but it caused a confused buzz in the crowd, and maybe a lot of mental eye-rolling when Liddi – predictably – struck out.

There were a few times in last night’s game where Jaso probably could have been used and wasn’t until the last minute. I wound up sleeping on the couch for a few hours after dinner, but woke up around 10pm and turned the game on to find it in extras again. I saw Jesus Montero take a pitch in the throat past his helmet guard. Seeing stuff like that with catchers almost always gets me. It’s such a vulnerable position, crouching down there. You might as well have a target painted on your noggin. I haven’t heard anything further, and Montero looked like he was in pain, but he remained in the game, so I will just assume he is alright (or as alright as he can be).  When Adam Jones launched that Josh Kinney slider into the visitor’s bullpen, I figured that was pretty much the game, but I stayed up for the bottom of the 11th out of a bit of guilt from the night before. You never know, right? But of course it was not to be, Baltimore swept us, and now present more of a threat to their east coast counterparts than the might have been had we managed to pull just one win out of this series.

This is me being selfish; I’m OK with this. Baltimore, for anyone unaware even now, is my second favorite team. They have been pretty early in my fandom, the minute I saw Chad Bradford, and followed subsequent trades back and forth of players that both worked out and didn’t work out for both teams. Mainly us for the not-working-out bit, but I’m not going to argue that right now. The fact is, I’m thrilled that I might actually not have to choose the lesser of evils for at least part of this playoff season. A team that I like may actually get a shot to do some post-season work, and this year I have a reason to look forward to October, rather than rooting for one or two players on a team that I don’t like or care about just so I can extend my baseball watching. Over the past few years, the National League has provided me with plenty of Philadelphia action, but that won’t happen this year. It won’t happen in Arizona, either, and it may be sad to some of you, but I have no love one way or the other for either the Reds or the Nationals.

So fly swiftly, Orioles. I’m counting on you.

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