One thing that’s impressed me thus far about the 2012 Baltimore Orioles is that they’ve found ways to win all kinds of games. Last night on the heels of Matt Wieters’ 6th inning home run the Orioles took a 2-1 lead which stood up in the end. The goal is to score more runs than you opponents as often as you can. We’ve seen that happening more often this season than in years past. A week-and-a-half ago in Toronto we saw the O’s win a couple of shoot-out games that seemed to go back-and-forth with home run after home run. They won a few high scoring games in Chicago as well on the second leg of that road trip. On Sunday in L.A. and last night at home, we saw them win pitchers duels; that would have never happened last year or further in the past.
Unfortunately for the Orioles, thing will be getting a bit more difficult at least for the next couple of days. Nolan Reimold continues to be bothered by neck spasms, and it’s unclear when he’ll be able to return (possibly tonight). Jim Johnson was sent to the hospital on Monday night with flu-like symptoms which presumably has turned his lungs a shade of dark purple, and again it’s unclear when he’ll be available again for the Orioles. Lastly, Robert Andino flew to Miami following last night’s game to be with his wife who gave birth to their daughter at some time during the noon hour today. Berken has been called up from Norfolk to take Andino’s roster spot for the next two games, and manager Buck Showalter already announced that Ryan Flaherty will play second base tonight in Andino’s stead.
Speaking of congratulations, they’re due to Oriole reliever Pedro Strop who recorded his first big league save last night. Again, I really see that as a game that the Orioles would have lost in previous seasons. Granted Strop allowed a base runner on a walk, however had that same scenario played out in 2011 or ’10, the Oriole bullpen would have allowed two runs to score in the top of the ninth (perhaps Colby Rasmus would have homered after the Brett Lawrie walk). The Birds would have then proceeded to go down 1-2-3 in the last of the ninth, earning a 3-2 loss. I think it’s extremely understated how much the bullpen had struggled in the past few years, and now at the very least they appear to have relievers out there with the ability to stand up to big league hitters. Strop’s appearance last night came on the heels of some pretty good pitching by Darren O’Day and Luis Ayala in relief of Tommy Hunter, who’s final line was: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 3 K. Hunter had some trouble locating his fastball, but he got out of almost every jam in which he found himself throughout the course of the evening.
Again, the makeup of the team will be a bit different starting tonight with the various issues keeping guys out. The fact that Jason Berken was called up tells me that Reimold will probably play tonight; otherwise they would have called up a position player. However anything with the neck is something that you want to keep an eye on, so hopefully whenever he gets back into the lineup Reimold is careful with himself. This evening Jason Hammel goes to the mound against Kyle Drabek in game two of the series. Ironically Hammel had one of those “in-between” kind of games in his last outing in Chicago, however he posted a career-high ten strikeouts in six innings. When I say an in-between kind of game, he didn’t have the zip on his fastball that he showed in his near no-hitter earlier in the season. Hammel’s a strikeout pitcher, and Toronto can be a free-swinging bunch which could bode well for the Birds.
Going back to Jason Berken for a moment, again my gut tells me that his call-up means that Nolan Reimold is probably going to play (or at least be eligible to play) tonight. It also tells me that Jim Johnson might be a couple of days away from returning, and Buck Showalter felt that it was important to get another arm out in the ‘pen. Hopefully Johnson is able to return to the team as soon as is humanely possible given that he’s seven-for-seven in save opprotunities this year. On an unrelated issue, Tsuyoshi Wada apparently has ligament damage in his throwing arm, and might be a candidate for Tommy Johns surgery. We’ll know more in the coming days, however Wada’s chances of playing in the near or distant future with the O’s might not be too good. Last night’s game should indicate to all fans that this Oriole team is improved year-over-year. As yourselves…would the O’s have won a 2-1 game (against a division opponent no less) last year?
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Update (4 PM): Once again I stand corrected…sort of. Nolan Reimold will miss his fourth consecutive game with neck spasms as Endy Chavez will lead off and play left field. What I said above was that Reimold would potentially play tonight or at least be eligible to do so. It’s unclear what his eligibility would be in terms of possibly pinch-hitting later in the game. I suspect that regardless of his health situation the O’s would prefer not to use him so that if they do need to put him on the DL it can be retroactive to Saturday as opposed to potentially starting that clock over by having him appear in a game.