Written by Lee Tackett
Michael Saunders and Justin Smoak combined to go 5-7 with 3 home runs and six RBIs as the Mariners defeated the Orioles 8-4. Erasmo Ramirez kept the Oriole hitters off balance most of the night and worked into the seventh inning as he allowed four runs in six plus innings. The Orioles tied the game twice in the early innings on solo home runs by Nate McLouth and Manny Machado but were unable to break through against the Seattle bullpen.
-Scott Feldman's performance can be characterized by the adage, “pitching naked.” Throughout the outing, Feldman was unable to establish his fastball, or any of his secondary pitches for that matter. Most of his offerings stayed up in the zone and the Seattle hitters were not fooled. Feldman allowed a batter to reach base every inning, except for the second when Justin Smoak continued his demolition of the Orioles with a solo home run.
To Feldman's credit, he limited the damage despite the base runners and always seemed a pitch away from escaping the inning unscathed, which he accomplished in the first and third innings. In the fourth, Michael Morse mashed a double and Smoak followed with a walk. After a Saunders strike out, Humberto Quintero singled to right, but Morse was surprisingly held at third. Feldman made a good pitch to Brad Miller, but it was blooped into left for a single. Fortunately, McLouth executed a perfect deke and forced Smoak at third and the rally was limited to one.
The fifth was no kinder to Feldman. After a Kyle Seager leadoff walk, Feldman seemed on the cusp of making it out alive but back to back singles from Morse and Smoak ended his evening. The Seattle hitters maintained a consistent approach and bled Feldman to death by working counts and taking advantage of Feldman's mistakes up in the zone.
Final Line: 4.2 IP 7 H 5 R 5 ER 4 BB 4 K
Mcfarland found himself in his familiar role of long relief, but could not get the Orioles off the field in the fifth and surrendered a crippling three run home run to Saunders. Mcfarland really labored through his outing and, like Feldman, didn't seem to have his best stuff. He scattered three hits in his inning and a third of work, but the blast from Saunders was his biggest mistake.
Final Line: 1.1 IP 3 H 1 R 1 ER 0 BB 2 K
Steve Johnson made his first appearance after an extended DL stint and was a rusty, walking two, but turned in a scoreless inning nonetheless.
Brian Matusz was brought in to face two switch hitters and two lefties and looked awful. His line was on its way to being rough until the Orioles turned in the garden variety 9-4-2-3 double play, more on that later.
Keeping with the theme of an off night for the Oriole staff, Darren O'Day struggled to defend himself against left handed hitters and couldn’t keep the team in the game. After a quick out to begin the inning, Smoak (who else) stroked a double and Saunders (also who else) followed it up with an opposite field home run on a fastball that stayed up to put the Mariners back up by 4 and the game out of reach.
- Matt Wieters drove a second inning fastball from Ramirez into the right field seats for a solo home run. Ramirez placed the fastball in a good spot, inside and under Wieters' hands, but he looked to be sitting fastball, got the barrel out, and tied the game at 1.
-Manny Machado provided an immediate answer to the Seattle run in the fourth with a solo home run of his own. Machado drove a hanging breaking ball that was up, verging out the outer half of the plate to left field.
-The Birds finally got things going in the 7th. I'm refusing to attribute the sudden good at bats to the Buck ejection, but after the extended confrontation with home plate umpire Larry Vanover, Nick Markakis turned the extended at bat into a single and Adam Jones lashed a double into the right field corner. After a pitching change, Chris Davis delivered a sac fly to score Markakis then Wieters followed with a single to the gap to pull the O's within two.
-Machado tried to spark a two out rally with a double down the right field line, similar to the Jones double in the seventh. Markakis then worked a tough walk, but Jones flew out to left center to end the threat.
Defensive Highlights/Low Lights
-Ryan Flaherty looked very comfortable going back on balls from shortstop. If he is optioned before rosters expand in September, there is no harm in letting him play every day at shortstop.
-The McLouth deke in the fourth may have saved Feldman from an even uglier line. He had Smoak frozen between second and third and even had him break back to second even with the play right in front of him.
-The eighth inning double play was a clinic in impeccable execution. Markakis played the ball perfectly off the wall, threw a strike to Casilla, who made a quick, accurate relay to Wieters, who put down a perfect tag then had the wherewithal to see Ibanez caught between first and second and get the ball to Davis, who trailed Ibanez perfectly and put the tag down. This was almost a 100 word sentence because I wanted to convey how ridiculous this play was to pull off. The range of emotions from an observer’s perspective were also off the charts (furious at Matusz, curious during Nick’s throw, hopeful during Casilla’s relay, delirious realizing the Birds were going to turn two).
Key Moments in Game
-Although the seventh inning rally and the eighth inning double play made things interesting, the Saunders three run home run set this game on a bad path. Of course, none other than Saunders put the game on ice with his either inning finisher.
Observations and Musings
-Even if Erasmo Ramirez did have good stuff tonight, there is no reason why a pitcher with a 7 plus ERA should be able to get into the seventh inning against this offense. The offensive struggles were especially disappointing given how things seemed to have improved after Friday.
-Mcfarland created an excruciating sixth inning by throwing over on Brad Miller 7 times before giving up a singe Morales to mercifully move Miller to second, where he saw no throws over.
-Classic ejection from Buck as a hopeful catalyst for his team. He was justified in his reaction from the dugout. The pitch was pretty clearly up and away. The ball started on the outer half and with Ramirez's run ended up almost two balls off the plate. It was almost time for the inaugural Markakis ejection for arguing balls and strikes, but Buck intervened and Markakis ended up on base.
-This was the kind of start that should worry O's fans about Feldman. One of the perks of having a veteran pitcher is the idea that they will be able to eat innings and keep the team in the game when they don't have their best stuff. Feldman couldn't get out of the fifth against a team that will not make the playoffs.
-Oliver Perez should be embarrassed that Matt Wieters stole a base off of him.
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