Jason Hammels pitched a fairly solid five innings against New York last night. He didn’t start to lose it until the sixth, which is a whole other issue in itself. The only reason that New York put up two runs in the fourth was due to a lapse by first baseman Chris Davis. With two runners on and nobody out a two-hopper was hit directly to Davis off the bat of Mark Texeira. This should have been a fairly routine play that would have resulted in a double play. However Davis bobbled the ball, and was only able to get Texeira at first (with Hammel covering). That moved two runners into scoring position, both of which scored on Nick Swisher’s double.
That play was ruled a sacrifice, however one could make the argument that it could have been an error. In the sixth Davis misplayed a similar ball off the bat of Raul Ibanez; this time the bases were loaded and two runs scored directly (this one was ruled an error). This isn’t “pick on Chris Davis day,” however the miscues at first base last night did aid in costing the Orioles an 8-5 decision. It’s a pretty tough sell when a ball is hit on the ground and there’s a collective sigh of relief from the pitcher, coaches, and even the crowd in that they know they’ve gotten out of a jam, only to find that the jam’s only about to get worse. The good news is that Davis’ issues can be fix…with a lot of infield practice.
Hammels hadn’t pitched since May 5th, which might explain why he started to tire a bit early. Up until the sixth inning, I felt he had his A-List game. His go-to pitch seemed to be his slider, which looked as if it had gotten more poignant in his time off. Manager Buck Showalter said that the real test of Hammels’ health would be whether or not he wakes up with knee pain or swelling today.
The real positive for the Orioles was left fielder Xavier Avery, who led of the game with a double for his first major league hit. MASN’s cameras caught Derek Jeter congratulating Avery on the hit in the immediate aftermath; having a future first ballot hall of famer greet you after your first hit is something you tell your grandchildren about. Avery is definitely a hustler, and he seems to have blazing speed. We learned that in his next turn at the plate when he hit a triple. In that sense he seems to be a version of Felix Pie with a lot more pop in his bat, along with a lot more baseball smarts. Pie might not have had those two qualities per se, however when he got on base he was fast as lightning.
As we’ve seen in the past, the good news is that the Fighting Showalters don’t go away. Granted they lost this one, however with worsening weather conditions and what appeared to be a very “interesting” strike zone the O’s seemed to always find a way to come back and tie the game or take the lead. Again there are no moral victories in a sense, however this quality bodes well in the future. And when I say the future, I mean tonight and beyond.
After the game Showalter pointed out that they had forced NY to use every reliever except David Robertson. Even though NY is throwing C.C. Sabathia tonight, the fact that their bullpen is a bit tired might bode well for the O’s. I appeared on the podcast of Ricky Keeler from Yanks Go Yard on Sunday evening, and NY’s struggling bullpen was one thing that we discussed. So if the Orioles can get to Sabathia tonight, they’ll get into a staff that’s already suspect but that is also tired. As for the Orioles’ pen, they’ve been used a bit more than they had been of late the past couple of days. However I’d still put them as one of the better pens in the league.
The Orioles will counter Sabathia with Wei-Yin Chen, who of course made his big league debut against New York. As always, the disclaimer with Chen is that he’s a fly ball pitcher. However another thing I discussed with Ricky Keeler the other night was that I’ve been impressed with Chen’s endurance thus far. Most Japanese league pitchers have trouble going further than five innings in games because they aren’t used to pitching on only five days’ rest. Last time around Chen pitched 7.2 innings in the first part of a twin bill, which was huge for the Birds. He also hits his marks on spot with deadly accuracy and seems to be able to get balls by guys.
This is a big game for the Orioles because even in a short series like this you don’t want to get swept by the Yankees at home before heading out on the road. After tonight’s game the Birds will head to Kansas City for all of a day-and-half or so. They’ll play Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon, before heading back to the east coast (and the mid-Atlantic region at that!) to play the Nationals in Washington DC this weekend. With all of that said, here’s a special treat for Orioles’ fans: click on this link for an Orioles’ internet browser theme!
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