I find it ironic that many times when you have an offensive explosion in a game you turn around and have anemic offensive game the next day. Oakland starter Bartolo Colon blanked the Orioles through much of his 8.1 innings in the game. Through eight innings Colon gave up four hits. Luckily Tommy Hunter Matched Colon for the most part, although Oakland put two runs on the board. Hunter pitched a gem, for which he was non-decisioned. Hunter’s line: 7 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 2 K. Hunter left the game after getting no run support what-so-ever. Yet he left the team in a position to win the game, which is really all you want out of a starter.
The way that you win a pitchers’ duel from behind is by the opponent leaving their starter in for too long. I was as surprised as anyone when Oakland sent Colon back out to pitch in the last of the 9th. With closer Grant Balfour warming in the pen and with it being a save situation, it seemed like a no-brainer that you’d bring in the closer. Nevertheless, Colon came out to pitch in the 9th and was shaky from the beginning. Enter the Orioles, playing the part of opportunists. J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones both hit infield singles. Again, Colon was tiring at that point; he committed an unforced throwing error at first to advance Jones and Hardy and to put the tying run in scoring position with one down. At that point Colon exited and Oakland put in their closer Balfour. It would stand to reason that a fresh pitcher (and a closer at that) is going to come in and start mowing down the opposition, right? Perhaps, however the O’s were somewhat destined in this game. Matt Weiters almost ended the game…almost. However his two-run double tied the game. Buck Showalter sent in Endy Chavez to pinch-run for Wieters, and Chris Davis was intentionally walked. Enter Wilson Betemit…
…with the count to Betemit at 3-1, my attitude at the time was to let the next pitch go by. If Balfour wants to load the bases, why not allow him to do so? However Betemit got a pitch he liked on 3-1, and hitting a three-run walk-off home run sending the yard into a frenzy. While Betemit is the obvious hero in this game, we can’t downplay the contributions of catcher Matt Wieters. MASN’s Amber Theoharis noted last week that Wieters had a very stoic approach to games and to his craft. Wieters said that in effect you have to take the emotion out of each at-bat and just remain “in the moment.” Whatever he did worked yesterday against Oakland. That set up the moment…Betemit perfected it.
So in keeping with what Wieters said, the Orioles now have the tough task of moving off that immense high and heading to NY to play the Yankees. Again, we’re trying to stay in the moment; so I won’t mention that tonight’s game begins a grueling part of the schedule in which the Orioles will potentially play a bunch of creme de la creme teams. We’ll get to that at some point…just not today. However tonight Jason Hammel will head to the mound at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx to lead the Orioles against the bombers. Some might say that Hammel’s been the Orioles’ most effective starter this year. One way or the other, he has a 1.73 ERA. That should come in handy at homer-happy Yankee Stadium. Hammel will be opposed by Hiroki Kuroda, who’s 1-3 with a 4.38 ERA. Kuroda’s coming off of a good outing in Texas, however he’s had two decent and two subpar games thus far in 2012. If Kuroda isn’t sharp early, the bats of Jones, Markakis, Wieters, et al might knock the ball around the ballpark a bit.
While Wieters is absolutely right about being stoic and so forth, the feeling coming off of a dramatic walk-off win as such is probably to good to put behind you right away. The thing that strikes me is that the Orioles have lost so many games like that in the past. Ironically it was normally a case where the manager would yank the starter so as to go to his closer to get him a save. However the ends would be the same in that the opposing team would come up with late-game dramatics leaving the O’s second-guessing themselves with that deer-in-the-headlight looks about them. Now suddenly they’re winning games like that. I will say this; there were 31K people at the game yesterday, and I felt that they helped to will the Birds onto win the game. I suppose the true question still remains whether or not these Birds are truly for real. I would still submit that it might be too early to tell. But with the grind that’s coming up in May, I think we’ll soon find out. However even if this is a tease, let us not forget that the past two seasons didn’t really have that tease.
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