While it would have been nice to have swept yesterday’s doubleheader, the Orioles will have to live with splitting it and only winning one-out-of-four games in the series overall. The good news is that the Rangers shellacking the Birds was something that was left on the other side of the rain out. First off, in game one the O’s became the first team in American League history to open a game with back-to-back-to-back home runs. Before even recording an out Colby Lewis found himself watching three different Orioles running the bases. Leading off, Ryan Flaherty hit his first big league home run which was followed up by homers from J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis. Before the game was over, Adam Jones and Wilson Betemit would also chime in by going yard.
Wei-Yin Chen really did the team a service with his performance in game one. With the rain out the Oriole bullpen was able to get the rest it needed in the wake of Sunday’s 17 innings in Boston. However in theory with a doubleheader they could have gone back to being taxed very quickly. However Chen came through for the team; his final line: 7.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 5 K. That’s exactly the kind of performance you need in game one of a twin bill to save your bullpen. The only concerning thing was that going into the top of the 9th the game was 6-2, and Jim Johnson allowed a three-run homer. However he ended up getting the final outs, as the O’s won it 6-5.
In game two the Orioles recalled Tommy Hunter due to putting Endy Chavez on the DL. Hunter went six innings but gave up four runs. In fairness he also struck out seven hitters. At times his pitches did seem to sail out of the zone, however he also battled back from behind in counts. It appeared from the outset that it might be another long night as Josh Hamilton hit a two-run homer in the 1st, however he was quiet the rest of the night. The Orioles scored off of several Texas errors, including one by Hamilton himself in center. While the O’s used three relievers, all only pitched one inning each. All in all, I would say that the Oriole bullpen is in much better shape than it was on Monday or Tuesday.
It would have been nice to at least split with Texas, however let’s keep in mind that the Rangers are probably the American League’s best team. As Buck Showalter said last night, there are also good players coming in behind the Rangers with the Tampa Rays. Former Oriole (and fan favorite) Luke Scott will be back at the yard this weekend as the Orioles play Tampa for the first time this season. Perhaps a sign of the times, we’re going to see something this weekend at the yard that we haven’t seen for quite some time: a battle for first place. The O’s and Tampa are tied for first place in the AL East. Whichever team takes two-of-three will emerge as the new leader. It’s all very relative given that the teams are still so bunched together and it’s still so early in the year, however it’s nice to see the Orioles competing in that sense.
The Birds will have to make another roster move before tonight’s game, as they’ve purchased the contract of Dana Eveland from Norfolk (Eveland will start tonight against Tampa). Did Tommy Hunter look good enough last night to keep him around? If so, do the Orioles send a position player such as Steve Tolleson or a reliever such as Stu Pomeranz back to Norfolk? It’s tough to say at this point; the other thing is that regardless of who gets sent down, they might come right back. If Jason Hammels goes to the DL the Orioles will need to recall someone.
I wouldn’t be overly worried about dropping the Texas series. Granted those first two games were troubling, but there’s always more than meets the eye. The more important thing at the moment is Tampa this weekend. Furthermore, the Orioles need to focus on the AL East until further notice; again, Tampa this weekend. One guy the Orioles won’t be happy to see return to the yard is Carlos Pena. He used to terrorize Oriole pitchers in his first go-around with Tampa, but now he’s back. And of course the above-mentioned Luke Scott, who I’m sure will be warmly received back at Camden Yards by the Oriole fans. The Orioles will not have to face third baseman Evan Longoria, who’s currently on the DL. However keep in mind that Joe Maddon always finds a way to plug holes, and Tampa’s coming off of taking two-of-three in NY.
Eveland will be opposed by Jeremy Hellickson tonight, who’s 3-0 on the season. Eveland was less than spectacular in spring training for the O’s, however through six starts in Norfolk this year he hasn’t allowed more than three runs. You have to take things game-by-game in this league, however I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t looking ahead to Sunday’s match-up between Jake Arrieta and “Big Game” James Shields. As I said above, this weekend pits first place in the American League East on the line…see you at the yard!
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