Miguel Gonzalez came out of the bullpen and made a spot start last night for the Orioles…or did he? The true definition of a spot start is that the team’s in a bit of a pinch and they tab a guy to come out of the bullpen and start for that game. Generally it’s tough on everyone involved because you kind of have to stay away from that guy for a few days prior to and after he starts. However with the outing that Miguel Gonzalez gave to Buck Showalter and the Orioles last night, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that he shouldn’t remain in the rotation. Gonzalez’s line: 7.o IP, 3 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 6 K.
Gonzalez managed to do everything that we say needs to be done on a game-by-game basis in order for the Orioles to win. He had command of the strike zone, and there was a bit of late pop on his pitches. He also went seven innings into the game; many relievers and/or spot starters are unable to make it that far for obvious reasons. So before we say that Gonzalez will eventually head back to the bullpen, we should realize that there might be a little more than meets the eye. With three-fifths of the original starting rotation now in Norfolk, I think that the Orioles would be foolish to send someone like Gonzalez back to the bullpen. They need someone that throws strikes and gets batters out; Gonzalez did that last night. Perhaps the most impressive aspect to his start in my mind was the seventh inning. Nearing 100 pitches it became immediately obvious that he was tiring when he walked Mark Trumbo to lead off the inning. Yet he managed to dig deep and complete the inning unscathed, capping it off with a 4-6-3 double play.
Speaking of Trumbo, his solo home run in the last of the fourth was the lone run that Gonzalez surrendered. However this was a game that hall of famer Earl Weaver would have loved; good pitching, good defense, and a three-run homer. You could probably argue that Anaheim starter C.J. Wilson made only one bad pitch, that Steve Pearce hammered over the left field fence. However previous to that Wilson Betemit led off the inning by legging out an infield single. Mark Reynolds followed that up with a walk, and suddenly the O’s had two base runners with nobody down. That set up the inning very nicely, and Pearce’s shot on Wilson’s 3-2 offering is probably still orbiting Southern California.
Darren O’Day reliever Gonzalez in the 8th, and with two outs Mike Trout’s solo homer brought Anaheim to within 3-2. Tori Hunter follow ed that up with a triple, and suddenly the Orioles’ and Gonzalez’s victory seemed to be in serious doubt. O’Day intentionally walked Albert Pujols, and manager Buck Showalter brought in Troy Patton who got Kendry Morales to pop out to second to retire the side. Anaheim went 1-2-3 in the 9th, netting Jim Johnson his major league-leading 26th save of the season.
Again, it’s unclear what the Orioles are going to do with Gonzalez. Furthermore, you can’t expect that all of his potential starts down the road are going to look like this. However given that the only starters that the Orioles appear to have coming out of the break are Wei-Yin Chen, Jason Hammel, and Chris Tillman, the O’s need someone. There are also some rumors floating around online to the effect that the Orioles are in some trade talks with the Milwaukee Brewers about starter Zack Greinke. For the record, unless the trade involved several of what I would deem “untouchables” for the Orioles (Jones, Wieters, Machado, Bundy), I’d say they should pull the trigger on that. If Dan Duquette were able to do some sort of sell job on Milwaukee to convince them that Brian Matusz or someone else has a decent upside, it would be an interesting situation given that former Oriole pitching coach Rick Kranitz is currently holding that position with the Brewers.
Tonight the Orioles hand Jason Hammel the ball again, and he’ll be opposed by Jared Weaver. Through 19.2 innings pitched since returning from injury, Weaver’s given up one earned run. He dominated the Orioles two weeks ago at Camden Yards, however it seems that the bats have come alive a bit since then. However the Birds will have their work cut out for them tonight, as will Jason Hammel.
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