Sitting here in the Camden Yards pressbox, as part of the Orioles continuing attempts to give us bloggers more access to the team, I am struck by a couple things. One, There is no more beautiful sight in the world than Camden Yards on a cool Spring afternoon, or morning in this case. The sun is shining, the breeze is mild and the Orioles are beginning to take batting practice. Two, it a shocking development I only now realize that this is the first Orioles batting practice I have ever witnessed. Robert Andino just finished working on some bunts and Wieters hit some soft liners around the diamond. Slowly but surely the whole team has made their way on to the field to work on their various pregame routines. Three, I really love afternoon baseball. I understand why the games are played under the bright lights, but baseball during the day just feels right on a visceral level. After all how many of us growing up had the opportunity to regularly play the game under the lights? Watching the pregame warmups activates the "whimsy" center of my brain - its a good feeling.
The Orioles have dropped the last two games in ugly fashion. First Bruce Chen and the streaking Royals made them look silly in Kansas City, more on that in a minute. And last night the Orioles played through a driving rain to an uninspiring 6-2 loss against James Shields and the Tampa Bay Rays.
The game was actually a lot closer than the final score would make you think. Rookie pitcher Zach Britton gave up three runs in the second inning, putting the team in a hole, but then was brilliant for the rest of his start. The only problem was James Shields was more brilliant blanking the Orioles through his first three innings. He would not give up a run until Derrek Lee hit his third homerun of the season in the sixth, through the driving rain. That is something that has to be brought up last night, the weather was atrocious. I was sitting in my local watching with my fiancee and the various other patrons and we were all amazed that the game never went into a delay. That is a testament to Nichole Cherry and the Orioles' groundscrew, but the field seemed near unplayable at times. For example, right after Lee's homer Vlad Guerrero came up and hit a wicked grounder into the hole between third and short, it hit the now swampish infield dirt and came to almost a complete stop allowing for an easy play.
The real story of last night though was the Orioles continuing bullpen struggles. On the various Orioles message boards that populate the internet the fans are just as stumped. How can the Orioles bullpen be this ineffective seemingly every year. New players are brought in, players with track records yet year after year the Orioles' pen struggles. The Rays scratched out a run against Jeremy Accardo last night making it a 4-1 game. But the kill shot came when normally reliable coughed up a two-run homer in the eighth to the corpse of Johnny Damon. The Orioles would get one more in the ninth off of a Luke Scott garbage-time homer but the bullpen had put the game out of realistic reach by that point.