The Orioles just finished a home stand which came in like a lion and out like a lamb. Although they dropped a tough one to the Phillies last Friday evening, they won each of the rest of them capped off by last night’s lopsided 12-6 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Quite honestly, the game wasn’t as close as the score indicates. Tommy Hunter struggled a bit in the middle innings, but that was only after he retired the first twelve hitters in the game. Furthermore it came after the Orioles had already dropped ten on Pittsburgh. Nevertheless, Hunter’s line:6 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 0 BB, 5 K.
While Hunter looked better than those statistics indicate, the real story is the offensive explosion put forth by the Orioles. Let me just say that we should all keep in mind that baseball’s a weird game; they might turn around tonight in Atlanta and put up three runs. That’s “the game,” and that’s “the league.” The tone was set early with Brian Roberts singling to center field off of former Oriole Erik Bedard. Matt Wieters would later plate Roberts, and when the smoke cleared after the last of the first the Orioles suddenly led 4-0.
One huge aspect of what the Orioles have been doing lately at the plate is the fact that they’re showing offensive balance. Steave Pearce and Mark Reynolds both homered in this game, but the majority of the runs were manufactured. So much for the team that can’t score unless they’re hitting solo HR’s! Highlighting the game, Matt Wieters went 4-for-5 with five RBI, and Pearce turned in a five-RBI performance also. If you look at the box score from last night’s game, the middle of the lineup was where the majority of the damage was done; go figure, that’s what you want to see if you’re Buck Showalter!
The Orioles are starting to peak at the right time, as they move towards the last few weeks of the first half of the season. Then again, I suppose there’s never a “wrong time” to peak (unless of course it’s after you’ve been eliminated from contention and that’s not the case here). One has to assume that the majority of the Birds will get a few days’ rest during the break and then they can get right back at it in the second half. However we’re still a ways away from that; the Orioles need to continue with this offensive onslaught for as long as it can continue. The fact that guys such as Steve Pearce and Steve Tolleson are contributing offensively is a huge plus for the O’s. (Pearce was of course aquired in a trade with the NYY a few weeks ago.)
Tonight the Orioles begin a modest six-game road trip with a three-game set in Atlanta (followed by three in NY against the Mets). The Birds recalled the above-mentioned Tolleson yesterday after Endy Chavez went to the DL with a hamstring injury. In general Chavez probably wouldn’t have needed to be on the DL in terms of the severity of the injury in this case. However with the next six games being in NL parks and thus under NL rules (with the pitchers hitting), the Orioles need all the potential bench players that they can get. Generally players have to spend a minimum of ten days in the minors after being optioned from the big leagues (Tolleson was sent down on Tuesday when the O’s activated Brian Roberts). However that player can be recalled if there’s a DL situation, which obviously was the case with Chavez.
Admittedly I’m really looking forward to this series. I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for the Braves due to their history with Hank Aaron and all. Tonight Brian Matusz will take to the mound in the wake of his bunting incident the other day when he took one off his nose. Matusz was pushed back until tonight to give him time to recoup after that injury. I suspect that Showalter and company will be watching him closely for any sign of discomfort on the mound. Matusz is looking to rebound after his previous start in Boston in which he was incredibly ineffective. The good news for all Oriole starters this weekend is that Turner Field is a pitcher’s park. Atlanta will start Tommy Hanson, who’s given up four runs over his last two starts. Last year’s series in Atlanta featured LHP Zach Britton hitting his first big league home run; the O’s don’t care from whom the runs come, they just need to keep coming!
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