Wow, just…wow! During yesterday’s 8-2 win over Boston at Fenway Park I tweeted that while I never thought the O’s would be the 100 loss team everyone expected, I didn’t expect them to start 18-9 either. The question is when it’s “safe’ to declare the Orioles “for real.” I suppose that it’s never really safe given that the Red Sox collapsed last September to miss the playoffs, however needless to say the O’s have started out hot. Many people like to point out that they often start hot before falling back into the pack. True, and that very well may happen again. However needless to say, they don’t often start this hot.
Jason Hammel stymied the BoSox yesterday with his hard sinker timed with a few off speed pitches here and there which kept Boston hitters guessing all day. Hammel’s line: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 8 K. (It’s worth pointing out that while Hammel was responsible for the two base runners that scored, they didn’t cross the plate until after he had officially departed for the afternoon.) In no way is this a slap at Jeremy Guthrie (who I felt was a solid starter and great team leader in Baltimore), however…how’s that trade working out so far from the Orioles’ perspective?! At one point in the game Hammel went 17 straight at-bats without giving up a hit (one walk). I can’t remember the last time I saw this many quality starts from Oriole pitching. And it shouldn’t go lost on fans that this came at venerable Fenway Park, which is a hitter’s paradise.
The story of the game (aside from the pitching) was the third inning. When a team puts up seven runs in an inning on a starting pitcher, you can at least say that most of the drama is probably gone from the game. Adam Jones and Mark Reynolds each homered cleah ovah da monstah in left field; Jones’ homer left the park outright, landing in a parking lot across the street. The key thing with those homers is that guys were on base when they were hit. That’s how you have a big inning, especially in a park like Fenway. If there was one concerning part I suppose one could argue that the O’s didn’t score after the third inning, however as we’ve said in the past they’re finding ways to win games. (It’s also worth noting that once you drop an eight spot on someone you can generally stop manufacturing runs by sacrifice bunting or trying to steal bases.)
Going into the game this afternoon under Boston’s blonde sunshine the Orioles find themselves in a rare position of having the chance to sweep a Red Sox team that’s given them the dickens over a long period of time. The O’s have already guaranteed themselves a winning road trip, a series win, and thus consecutive road series wins over division rivals. So in that sense it might be easy to relax come this afternoon’s game. But this is the Orioles’ chance to really put their foots on Boston’s throats…at least for now. Tommy Hunter gets the start today after getting a couple of extra days’ rest due to an ingrown toenail. Boston will counter with Clay Buchholtz, who hasn’t had a start this year in which he’s surrendered less than five runs.
In my opinion this is an important game for the Orioles for reasons that I started to lay out above. Thus far in 2012 we’ve seen the continuation of a trend that began last September in which the Birds really started to believe in themselves, have played quality baseball, and have taken the games to their opponents. We’ve also seen a “never say die” attitude whereby they haven’t given up in games where they’ve been down early. The Red Sox have long been a thorn in the Orioles’ side, and there’s no doubt that the O’s would take a lot of pleasure in sweeping them at their place this afternoon. Boston’s really in a tough spot right now, and even though the Orioles have more than proven their point this weekend thus far, why offer them a lifeline?
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