Bullpen issues make playoffs look far away

Bullpen issues make playoffs look far away
September 13, 2013, 10:00 am
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(John Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER via US PRESSWIRE)

With 16 games remaining, the Orioles have been reduced to hoping for their hottest streak of the season, and for a little luck.

In July, wrapped around the All-Star break, the Orioles won eight of nine, their best stretch. Since then, they’re 20-26.

Their most reliable reliever of last year, Jim Johnson suffered his eighth loss of the season, and he’s tied for the team lead in losses.

Johnson’s throwing error and wild pitch, the first one he’s allowed that resulted in a run according to ESPN, allowed the losing run to score on Thursday night.

Last year’s major league saves leader has had some awful stretches this season. In Arizona last month, he blew two saves, his eighth and ninth.

He had saved his four previous chances since then, but unless the Orioles miraculously recover, the sweep in Arizona will be pinpointed as when things truly began to go south.

Since Aug. 11, the Orioles are 12-17.

The Orioles are now one of four teams chasing Tampa Bay for the final Wild Card spot. The Yankees and Indians are ahead of them, too, and Kansas City, which has begun to roll, is tied with the Orioles, 2 ½ games out.

Ten of the sixteen remaining games are with the Rays and Red Sox. The other six are with Toronto. The Orioles have lost five of seven this season at the Rogers Centre.

Had Darren O’Day been available, perhaps he would have been in a tie game in the ninth. He’s been put through a battery of tests for the soreness he’s been feeling in his second and third fingers of his right hand.

O’Day isn’t in Toronto. His availability for the final two weeks is uncertain.

Manager Buck Showalter has nine pitchers in the bullpen, but it seems that he’ll turn to only Johnson and Tommy Hunter in crunch time.

Left-handers Brian Matusz and Troy Patton have each been used just twice since the rosters expanded on Sept. 1. Showalter seems to be wary of using lefty specialists against teams that can easily substitute right-handed hitters, taking away the supposed advantage.

Showalter doesn’t seem to have much confidence in Francisco Rodriguez. Since he was obtained in July, K-Rod hasn’t been used in a save situation despite 304 lifetime saves.

On Tuesday, Showalter used Kevin Gausman for a second inning, in the eighth, instead of O’Day, and said he didn’t use K-Rod because he had trouble holding runners on base.

Besides O’Day, Bud Norris is sidelined, too. He was originally going to start on Friday, but his elbow is bothering him, and he won’t pitch—at least for now.

2013 has been an intriguing season for the Orioles. It just doesn’t look like there’s going to be a happy ending.