With last night’s 6-4 win over Boston at Fenway Park, the Baltimore Orioles have now won nine of their last eleven games (get the title now?…911). I’m not sure how often I’ve said this thus far in 2012, but last night’s game was one that previous installments of the O’s would have lost. First off, Boston caused Wei-Yin Chen in the second inning by loading the bases, and they put a run across.(In fairness the Orioles’ defensive mishaps didn’t help either.) However read between the lines a bit there; they only put one run across. In years past it probably would have quickly bee 3-0 or 4-0 in that situation. Yet they minimized the damage.
Furthermore, in allowing Boston to take the lead (especially at Fenway) in the past, the Orioles might have folded and just gotten ready to come back and fight another day. But these are the 2012 Fightin’ Showalters…they don’t give up. Mark Reynolds finally snapped out of his 76 at-bat homerless streak and sent a solo shot deep over the green monster seats in left field. If you didn’t already know, at that moment you came to know that these Birds weren’t going anywhere. Chen most certainly wasn’t at his best, however he wasn’t at his worst either. People also should recognize that Chen joins a long list of pitchers who have struggled a bit in their first Fenway start.
Tight games quickly become battles of bullpens. As bad as Boston’s bullpen has been in 2012, they were superb last night. However the Oriole ‘pen, statistically the best in the majors, was just a little better. Oriole relievers combined for eight shutout innings in which they only gave up two hits. Seriously folks, that’s almost unheard of. You got the feeling that this was turning into a marathon game of sorts, however I suppose that it ended just before it would have truly reached those proportions. In the 13th inning with Betemit on first and Wieters on second, Chris Davis sent a seeing-eye single through the right side to put the O’s ahead. A Mark Reynolds base hit padded the lead at two, and Jim Johnson shut down the BoSox in the last of the inning to preserve the victory.
The one concern that I have is the number of relievers the O’s had to use (five). Obviously that’s not anyone’s fault per se because when you go to 13 innings you’re going to tax your bullpen; that’s just part of the game. However the good news is that Boston had to use six relievers to finish the game, so in a sense that gives the O’s a bit of a competitive advantage going into this afternoon’s game. Yes, I said this afternoon; the O’s and BoSox will play game two of this three game set just after1 PM today under the blonde sunshine at Boston’s Fenway Park. It’s a bit of a quick turnaround, however one good move that Buck Showalter made was to start Ronnie Paulino behind the plate last night and make Matt Wieters the DH. Showalter in effect gave Wieters somewhat of a day off, and he still should be able to catch today and tomorrow afternoon. Most importantly, the Orioles shouldn’t lose Wieters’ bat during this all-important AL East series.
Buck Showalter shuffled the rotation with this past Thursday’s off day because Tommy Hunter needed an extra day to deal with an ingrown toenail. So Jason Hammel will start today’s ballgame against one of his former teammates in Colorado, Aaron Cook. A veteran sinkerballer, Cook is making his first start with Boston this afternoon in place of Josh Beckett who’s been sent to the DL. Prior to last night’s game the O’s placed left fielder Nolan Reimold on the DL with a bulging disk in his neck, recalling catcher Luis Exposito (who appeared in last night’s game in relief of Paulino). I’m not exactly sure why they replaced an outfielder with a catcher, however it wouldn’t surprise me if it had something to do with the two day games this weekend. So does that mean that Exposito heads back to Norfolk after the series is over? Possible, but doubtful.
The real interesting news from last night had to do with Dan Duquette confirming that Miguel Tejada would be reporting to the Orioles’ spring training facility in Sarasota on Monday for a workout. No contract has been offered, however Tejada has said that he’s looking forward to joining the Orioles for a third time. I suppose the question in everyone’s mind is whether or not this spells the end of the line for Mark Reynolds, who’s turned into a liability at third base. Tejada of course is a shortstop by trade, however the O’s played him at third in 2010 when they signed him for one year. Honestly, Tejada was a better third baseman than Mark Reynolds statistically is right now. However time will tell; as I said, Tejada has not signed a contract, he’s just working out for the Orioles at extended spring training and taking a physical.
If the Birds can win today it would guarantee a winning road trip, and mark four consecutive series wins within the division (dating back to April). As I said above, last night was a game that the Orioles probably would have lost 7-2 last year. We keep giving the caveat of “it’s still early” and so forth, but at some point that’s going to cease to be the case. As each game goes by and the Orioles continue to play well their confidence has to soar. Time will tell whether or not this team has staying power at the top of the standings, however first things first: O’s at Boston, 1 PM this afternoon at the Fens.
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