Game stories from The Sun and the Associated Press failed to mention Kam Mickolio's two inning, four strikeout relief performance against the Rays on Tuesday night, but the rookie's effort out of the bullpen was an encouraging indicator amidst what is fast becoming a disastrous second half of the baseball season for the Orioles.
Mickolio entered the game in the seventh inning with no outs and two runners in scoring position. He first struck out 2008 American League Rookie of the Year Evan Longoria. Mickolio then followed an intentional walk to Carlos Pena with another strikeout, this time of Pat Burrell. Finally, he retired Gregg Zaun on a pop-up to help the Birds escape the inning unharmed. (At least Peter Schmuck gave Mickolio his due.)
Matt Wieters followed Mickolio's outstanding seventh-inning effort by clouting a two-run home run in the top of the eighth inning in a strong nine pitch at-bat against Randy Choate. Wieters worked a full count by fighting off five of Choate's offerings before depositing a fastball into the stands in right-center.
On most nights this month the Orioles have made it hard to remain optimistic about the team's future. Last night wasn't one of them despite the game's disappointing outcome.
I like the Rays, really I do, but I'm certain the Orioles could muster many more fans for an August game were they in the thick of the Wild Card chase and one season removed from the World Series than the 16,514 who showed up last night at Tropicana Field.
Here's your sad but true fact of the day: The 48-71 Orioles are drawing more fans - overall and average per game - than the 64-54 Rays.