By Matthew Taylor
The Orioles didn’t lose last night, which would come as even better news had they actually played a game.
The Birds’ painful losing streak started with the embarrassing 30-3 defeat against the Rangers. However, for this O’s fan, the reality of losing a late-game, four-run lead over Johan Santana and with it a win that would have provided a validating end to the late-August misery, somehow hurt worse. Dan Connolly and Roch Kubato track the Orioles’ somewhat traditional “Start of fall.”
Thankfully, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays come to town this evening for a three-game set. The O’s are 10-2 against the D-Rays this season with six games between the teams left on the schedule.
The Devil Rays are like baseball aspirin, a cure for the hangover of an extended losing streak like the Birds’ current six-game slide. They’re the one thing that stands between the O’s and annual last-place finishes. In fact, the Devil Rays are the only team in Major League Baseball that currently stands closer to elimination than the Birds.
CBS Sportsline offers each team’s “Elimination Number.” The Devil Rays’ number stands at three, while the O’s are at 12. Some of our neighbors at or near the basement level include: Texas (14), Florida (15), Washington (16), Chicago (16), San Francisco (17), and Kansas City (18).
Dave Trembley is big on pride. Perhaps hanging around longer than these others teams could serve as a point of pride for the O’s in their remaining games. A much more important point of pride should be winning the season series against the Yankees, as should consecutive series wins against Boston.
The Orioles are 8-4 against the Yankees this season with six games remaining against the original Evil Empire (Sept. 17, 18, & 19 on the road; Sept. 28, 29 & 30 at home). This means that the Birds must finish 2-4 in those games to win the season series against the Yankees, which, according to MASN, hasn’t happened in the previous nine seasons. In other words, at least one long run of losing can come to an end this season.
Speaking of the Yankees, the New York Times addresses Mike Mussina’s recent pitching woes, including last night’s drubbing at the hands of the Detroit Tigers, and questions his future with the team.
Mussina is the most analytical of pitchers, but he seems mystified by this slump. He talked about the small slice of the game that pitchers actually control. But even that much has gone awry, shaking his confidence deeply.The same article mentions that the Yankees called up former Birds pitcher Chris Britton after last night’s game.
“Right now, I let go of it and I don’t feel like anything good is going to happen,” Mussina said. “It’s tough to pitch that way. You can’t play the game that way to feel like you have no control over anything, and that’s how I feel right now.
“Even the 60 feet, 6 inches, it doesn’t feel like I have a grasp of, and two weeks ago I felt like I could do anything I wanted. That’s how this game is. It’ll slap you in the face when you think you’ve got it. I felt good about it and now I don’t feel good at all.”
The Yankees owe Mussina more than $11 million for next season, but he seems to be nearing the end. It is a scary and sudden reality, and it has knocked him as low as he has ever been.
I’ve long been a fan of Mussina, so much so that I’ve struggled to hate him for committing the ultimate Baltimore baseball sin of donning a Yankee uniform, a fact that I addressed in the July 2006 posting, “Moose Was a Great Bird.”
There’s a part of me that wants us to take Mussina off the Yankees’ hands and hope that he can re-coup some of that old magic in a Birds uniform. After all, the O’s aren’t above nostalgia. We brought back Eddie Murray to hit home run No. 500. We brought back Maryland-native Harold Baines. Why not bring back Mussina?