KANSAS CITY - The Orioles win this afternoon or they go home.
They must hold a lead going into the later innings of Game 4 of the American League Championship Series. They can’t let the Royals trot out Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland while they play from behind.
Easier said than done, of course, but it’s got to happen. They must jump left-hander Jason Vargas early and break out their own procession of Darren O’Day, Andrew Miller and Zach Britton.
Asked after last night’s 2-1 loss what it’s like watching the Royals bullpen in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, Orioles manager Buck Showalter replied, “Well, I’ve got a real good feel for that because we have one very similar.”
“That’s one of the biggest reasons why we’re both playing here, and the starting pitching,” he said. “That’s what gets overlooked is the quality job the starting pitchers have done all year to make leads matter and precious outs late in the game matter. You can’t have one without the other. But the off-days make it, in the playoffs, which is different, make it a little bit easier to continue to follow a pattern and get a good return for it.”
Vargas is 2-3 with a 1.94 ERA in eight career starts against the Orioles, with 12 earned runs in 55 2/3 innings. He tossed a complete-game three-hit shutout against them last season while pitching for the Angels.
Vargas, the second left-hander to face the Orioles in the 2014 playoffs, allowed 18 runs in 18 innings over his last four starts of the regular season. However, he held the Angels to two runs and three hits over six innings in the Division Series.
This is Vargas’ second start since Sept. 24, and he brings interesting splits. He’s 6-6 with a 4.53 ERA in 16 home starts, and opponents are batting .289. He’s 5-4 with a 2.73 ERA in 14 road starts, and opponents are batting .238.
Vargas was 8-4 with a 3.31 ERA in the first half and 3-6 with a 4.50 ERA in the second.
Nelson Cruz is 10-for-30 (.333) with two doubles, four home runs, eight RBIs and seven walks against Vargas. He’s going to start in left field today. Delmon Young is 7-for-18 (.389). He’s going to serve as the designated hitter.
Adam Jones is 5-for-27 (.185) with two doubles, and Nick Markakis is 5-for-25 (.200) with a double and home run.
The Orioles tried to trade for Vargas at the 2013 non-waiver deadline, but they didn’t know when he’d be ready to come off the disabled list and pitch. They wanted to sign him as a free agent last winter, but he received a four-year, $32 million contract from the Royals. They weren’t going near it.
Miguel Gonzalez makes his first start since Sept. 28, and he’s pitching to keep the Orioles’ season alive. No pressure here.
Gonzalez is 1-2 with a 4.82 ERA in three career starts against the Royals. He allowed six runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings in his only start at Kauffman Stadium on July 25, 2013.
Jarrod Dyson is 5-for-6 (.833) against Gonzalez. Salvador Perez is 4-for-9 (.444) with a home run.
Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are a combined 3-for-32 against Gonzalez.
Will Dyson do more than pinch-run and play center field? Will he keep jawing at the Orioles?
Dyson felt that third baseman Ryan Flaherty purposely lowered a knee into his shoulder last night on an attempted pickoff.
“He dropped a knee, hoping I would get upset,” Dyson told reporters. “I just looked at him. He can get mad. I’ll let our sticks do the talking.”
Has Dyson’s bat done anything in this series? You’d think this guy was hitting .500.
Jeremy Guthrie infuriated some Orioles fans last night by wearing a T-shirt in his press conference that read, “These O’s Ain’t Royal.”
Guthrie tweeted the following early this morning:
“My intention was not to anger O’s fans or friends w/my shirt 2night.I apologize to those offended.Did not consider this reaction.Go Royals.”
“My positive feelings for The Charm City,O’s organization,my former teammates&O’s fans is well documented.Nothing I wore 2nite changes that.”