Saturday, April 10, 2010

Gonzalez blows another save as O's fall to 1-3

Mike Gonzalez is struggling right now, but you probably know that already. Before yesterday's O's home opener even started -- during pre-game ceremonies and player introductions -- Gonzalez was booed mightily and was the only player who received a vicious response from the crowd.

Keep in mind, it was April 9, the first home game, and many, if not most, fans have already turned on Gonzalez. If that doesn't tell you that fans are expecting more of this team than in previous years, then nothing will.

Granted, fans were/are booing Gonzalez for mainly two reasons: 1) In three appearances, he's blown two of three saves and in that span has given up five hits, four walks, and four earned runs in only two innings pitched; and 2) the O's signed him to a two-year, $12 million dollar deal in the offseason to solidify the closer's role.

The worst thing about Gonzalez's struggles isn't that he's simply pitching poorly, but also that he seems to have lost confidence in his pitching abilities so early into the season. Matt Wieters went to the mound at least twice to talk to Gonzalez, and Miguel Tejada and Julio Lugo each tried to give Gonzalez some encouraging words while he was in the middle of a difficult inning.

Right now, Gonzalez deserves a few more opportunities to right the ship. And it would probably be nice if the O's could get him into the game with more than a one-run lead at this point to give him a little leeway. However, if he can't straighten things out soon, Jim Johnson should take control of the closer's role. Every team blows save opportunities once in a while, but one of the main reasons Gonzalez was signed by Andy MacPhail in the first place was to prevent this type of thing from consistently happening. If Gonzalez can't get the job done, someone else should be given the chance.

OK, enough about Gonzalez. Honestly, the worst part of the game yesterday -- besides the heart-breaking 7-6 loss, obviously -- was that Brian Roberts suffered an abdominal strain after sliding into second base in the first inning after a stolen base. Watching Lugo inadequately fill Roberts's shoes by going 0-4 made me realize how much Roberts means to this team and how they can ill-afford to lose him for an extended period of time. It's also not a good sign that Roberts, already dealing with back problems, now has another injury concern to worry about.

Also, Gonzalez's blown save made a lot of fans forget how awful Brad Bergesen looked. Bergesen, who lasted just 4.2 innings and threw only 71 pitches before Dave Trembley had seen enough -- allowed five earned runs on eight hits. He also only struck out two Blue Jays, though he did just walk one. He was consistently around the plate but was hit hard more than a few times. I'm willing to give Bergesen the benefit of the doubt, not just because this was his first start of the season, but because his 2009 season ended abruptly with an injury and he hasn't faced Major League hitters in a regular season situation for a while now. Also, two runs scored in the first inning on a long fly ball by John Buck to center field that Adam Jones normally would have caught (the ball bounced off his glove). So if those two runs didn't score, Bergesen may have pitched a little longer and his outing may have looked a little better -- for what it's worth.

By the way, it's a little strange that the O's have played four one-run games to start the season. So they're 1-3, but they've been in each game and could easily be 3-1.

As for hitting numbers, the O's collected seven hits and seven walks. Tejada was the team's offensive star yesterday, going 3-5 with a two-run home run and knocking in four runs. Nick Markakis had a hit and two walks, and Garrett Atkins went 2-4. Cesar Izturis had a walk and a big hit -- an RBI double in the bottom of the eighth that briefly gave the O's the lead. Nolan Reimold and Wieters each went 0-2 but walked twice.

Next game: The O's face the Blue Jays tonight in game two of the series at 7:05. David Hernandez takes the hill against Dana Eveland.

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