Was Hall and Oates on TV last night? Just as the O’s/Rangers game was ending it seems like they were lighting up my twitter feed. The fact that the game was a blowout probably added to the reason why I even noticed it to begin with. How quickly things change; the O’s were riding high after their series sweep in Boston, however now they need a win either tonight or tomorrow to avoid being swept themselves. There’s no question that the O’s are a team that’s going on the upswing based on how they’ve started the season. However in Texas they’re facing a team that’s already “arrived.”
The big story of last night was Texas’ Josh Hamilton becoming the 14th player in big league history to hit four homers in a game. Unfortunately it came at the expense of the Orioles, however there are some cases where you kind of have to tip your cap to a guy when he does something like that. (The same could be said of a position player recording a win in a 17 inning game.) I would point out that the Oriole fans gave Hamilton a standing ovation after his fourth homer, which I feel is an extremely classy move that wouldn’t be seen in some other cities. Hamilton was locked in at the plate all night to say the least. His only plate appearance that didn’t result in a home run netted a double. Talk about hitting-for-power!
The ironic part about last night was that starter Jake Arrieta didn’t struggle too much. He had his issues, such as leaving balls up in the zone, however he gritted through 6.1 innings plus and quite frankly made a lot of pitches. One thing I’ve noticed about Arrieta is that he’s starting to record outs on the ground, which is a good sign. First off it says that he’s pitching to contact, and secondly if the ball’s on the ground there’s no shot of it leaving the ballpark and less of a chance of it doing major damage. After giving up three homers (including two of Hamilton’s) I felt that Arrieta really settled down. Obviously the damage was done, however the fact that he ate up some innings in the game helped the bullpen. Darren O’Day and Troy Patton are the only Oriole relievers that worked in Sunday’s marathon who have gotten into games since then (last night).
Texas also has great pitching, as we saw last night with Neftali Feliz. Keep in mind that Feliz is a former closer that’s been converted into a starting pitcher. His pitches were sailing by Oriole bats all night long. However after Feliz had departed the game there were some things that came across as hugely positive. J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis hit back-to-back home runs in the last of the 8th to put the Orioles up to three runs. In going three-for-five, Markakis actually showed signs of breaking out of the slump that he’s currently in. Fans should also take hope in the fact that Mark Reynolds and Robert Andino managed to grit their way on base in the 9th. Down 10-3, many teams would just let it go; not the Fighting Showalters. None of that overshadows the fact that the Orioles allowed four Josh Hamilton home runs or that they’ve been kicked in the teeth the past two games, but it’s worth mentioning. Perhaps that shows signs of the Orioles coming back to life starting with tonight’s game. At the very least, it shows that good pitching will outweigh good hitting given that they mounted these rallies after Feliz was long gone.
The O’s only beat Texas once last season, and they’ll face the pitcher that they beat tonight at the yard in Colby Lewis. He’s made three starts against the O’s since 2010 with a record of 1-2 and an ERA of 5.03. That should give the Orioles some hope, however I’m also wary of stats like that. What relevance does a game played last year or in 2010 bear to this evening’s game? The Orioles will send the 2-0 Wei-Yin Chen out to the mount tonight to counter. Given the barrage of homers the past few nights, I suppose I’m a bit nervous in the sense that Chen is a fly ball pitcher. However his strikeout-to-walk ration is just over 2:1 for the season, and he has an ERA of 2.76. So even though he’s a bit fly ball happy, he’s getting the job done.
If in fact the O’s are good at hitting Lewis, that bodes well for them tonight. Texas is a team that quietly has given the Orioles fits over the past couple of years. I remember a two-game series in Arlington in 2010 in which Brian Matusz got rocked for seven or eight runs in three innings (or something to that effect). They have a good team with good hitters, and it’s no coincidence that they’ve represented the American League in the World Series the past two years.
In closing today, I’d like to thank host Kyle Bailey and producer Nekolle Turner from “The Clubhouse” on Super Sports 101.7-FM in Blacksburg, VA (a FOX Sports radio affiliate). They had me on their show yesterday to talk about the Orioles. I listen to a lot of sports talk, and “The Clubhouse” seems like a great show. Tune in weekday afternoons if you’re ever in southern Virginia!
Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala