Pre-game chatter: weather, slumping offense, Uehara
I abstain from giving any weather reports or making any foolish predictions about whether the Orioles will play or get rained out. However, I can say that the consensus from many at Progressive Field last night was that it may be very tough to get today’s game in because the amount of rain in the forecast. I can’t say I’ve seen any of these forecasts or even checked weather.com. The extent of my reporting on this topic came when I noticed before I walked out of the stadium late last night that the Indians’ grounds crew had already applied the tarp, always an ominous sign. If they don’t get the game in, I’m assuming that there will be a doubleheader tomorrow because this is the Orioles only trip here. Stay tuned.
I don’t like spending too much time obsessing over statistics the first couple weeks of the season, but it’s kind of hard not to at Progressive Field, where the huge JumboTron updates the batting averages and ERAs after every at-bat. I guess this is not exactly a newsflash but I looked up as the Indians were putting the finishing touches on the win and I was a little taken aback by the averages of the Oriole regulars. Unless you include Cesar Izturis who is hitting .286 while subbing for injured shortstop J.J. Hardy, there is not a single Oriole regular hitting above .260, Vladimir Guerrero’s current average. Adam Jones and Matt Wieters are hitting .194 and .200 respectively. Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis are at .235 and .244. Derrek Lee, Guerrero and Luke Scott – the Orioles two, three and four hitters – have combined for two homers and seven RBIs. I asked manager Buck Showalter last night if there is any concern about the slumping offense and he said, ““We’ll be fine. We’ll be a good offensive team. Batting averages fluctuate 20 points per at-bat right now. I don’t spend a lot of time on it. I’m aware of what our guys track records are more than what they are doing now.” That, of course, is all true. However, the Orioles simply have to start getting some consistent production from their lineup. This was supposed to be the strength of the team and through a dozen games – aside from a couple of big homers - it’s pretty much been the biggest weakness. And it’s not going to get any easier as the Orioles face Josh Tomlin, Fausto Carmona, Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano over the next four days.
Even when the Orioles try to get Koji Uehara work, the reliever barely breaks a sweat. Uehara hadn’t pitched in seven days when Showalter gave him the ball last night in the eighth inning of a seven-run game just so he’d get some work in. Five pitches – and no splitters – later, Uehara was back in the dugout, having retired the Indians in order. Uehara has faced 12 hitters spanning four appearances and retired 11 of them. He also told Japanese reporters after the game that he feels ready to start pitching in back-to-back games. If there is a game today and the Orioles have a late lead, you’d like to think he’d be available. After all, his appearance last night didn’t last much longer than a Guerrero at-bat.