The Atlanta Braves put six more runs on the board this afternoon than they did Saturday night against the O’s. In fact, today it was the Orioles’ turn to put a minimal number of hits on the board – four. However the O’s were able to score twice, and for the second straight game they blanked the Braves. Wei-Yin Chen was masterful in his command of the strike zone this afternoon. Like Hammel in the previous game, Chen was dropping curve balls into the mix with minimal amount of difficulty. I think that kind of moxie is one of the marks of a good pitcher. If you go up and throw fastball after fastball you’re not going to fool big league hitters. However if you keep those hitters guessing as to what you’re going to throw, you have a much better rate of success.
Mark Reynolds’ sacrifice fly with one gone in the second brought Adam Jones to the plate to open the scoring as the Orioles took a 1-0 lead. Steve Pearce led off the sixth inning with a double, and he was sacrificed to third by the pitcher Chen (more on that later on). Pearce was then granted home plate on a balk that was called against Atlanta starter Randall Delgado. Over the years we’ve seen several teams score runs on the Orioles in a similar fashion, however it’s been quite awhile since the Orioles have scored on a balk.
The thing that I took away from this game more than anything else was Chen’s ability to induce the ground ball double-play. The O’s turned three in the game, with Chen starting two of them. One of those was a 1-6-3 double play in which Chen managed to nail the lead runner with two on and nobody out. At the beginning of the season I felt that Chen was shaping up to be a fly ball pitcher; it was refreshing to see him have the ability to induce so many double-plays, and in clutch moments of games at that.
As I mentioned above, Chen was able to move the would-be winning run over to third base in the form of Steve Pearce. We also saw Jason Hammel show an ability to get sac bunts down in his start. This is often how National League teams utilize their pitchers in games. Pitchers aren’t known as being the greatest hitters in the world in general, however I wouldn’t mind seeing Buck Showalter use more pitchers in this manner even in normal American League games. Late in a game if the go-ahead or tying run is at first base, would it not behoove a team to utilize a pitcher to get a bunt down as opposed to spending a position player? Perhaps more realistically, why not use pitchers as pinch-runners? Buck Showalter used starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie as a pinch-runner a few time last year, and I for one wouldn’t mind seeing him do the same with some of the guys on the staff this season. Again, why spend a guy that could otherwise be brought in for defensive purposes, or perhaps who’s bat might be needed at another point in the game?
To this point, I mentioned yesterday that I disagreed with MASN’s Gary Thorne in that American League pitchers hitting is a waste and it hurts the game. That might certainly be the case right now. However what he’s saying is that either the NL should adopt the designated hitter, or that in interleague play both sides should perpetually use the DH. First off, I do agree that in American League parks both teams should get the benefit of a DH, and in National League parks both teams’ pitchers should hit. (And if you look at the numbers, National League DH’s don’t hit as well as regular American League DH’s.) However I would submit again that perhaps if Major League Baseball ceased to allow teams in either league to use a DH perhaps those at-bats wouldn’t be such a waste. A pitcher is a player on the field just as the third baseman or someone in the outfield is. Why shouldn’t he have to hit as well?
Tomorrow night the Orioles will open up a three-game set in Flushing, NY against the Mets. This will be the last interleague road series that the Birds will play in 2012 (they’ll play the Nationals at home this coming weekend). The O’s are riding high after taking two-of-three from Atlanta this weekend, but they need to put that behind them as they head to NY for the Mets’ series. Jake Arrieta will get the start in the opener, and he’ll face R.A. Dickey of the Mets (who’s one of the last knuckleballers in the league). Dickey has struck out fifty hitters and walked three over his last five stats, which will make it tricky for the Orioles. Sometimes hitting against a knuckler can throw a guy’s tempo at the plate off for a week afterwards. Arrieta seems to have righted himself after struggling for over a month, and he attacked the strike zone well in his previous “spot start out of the ‘pen” against Pittsburgh last week. He’ll need to continue that trend against a NY Mets team that’s defying all odds thus far in 2012.
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