Back-to-back quality starts/wins by starting pitchers has manufactured a two-game Oriole winning streak. Of course on Wednesday Tommy Hunter pitched a gem in the Orioles’ 2-1 victory over Minnesota. Yesterday afternoon on getaway day Wei-Yin Chen held on long enough to swoop in and pick up the victory. Chen pitched a good game no doubt, however based on his pitch count of 108 it had already been decided that he wouldn’t come back out and pitch the 8th inning. It just so happened that the Birds took the lead in the top of the 8th. Chen’s line: 7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 BB, 5 K.
There appeared to be some confusion on Minnesota’s part in the last of the first with two on; Ben Revere took off from second without Joe Mauer running from first or Josh Willingham swinging. That’s either a missed sign on a hit-and-run attempt, or a missed sign on a double-steal. Luckily for Revere Mark Reynolds allowed the throw to hit the bag and he was safe. Willingham singled him home, Mauer scored on Plouffe’s double, and it appeared that Chen might be in for a long day. However you got the impression that the Birds weren’t going anywhere in the second when Chris Davis’ homer put the score at 2-1.
Minnesota would put one more across; I was surprised when Chen came back out to pitch in the top of the 7th. I suppose that Buck Showalter perhaps was showing a vote of confidence to his offense by saying that he still felt that they could get Chen the win; or he was just trying to save the bullpen. However it was with good reason that Showalter thought Chen could get the win. Alex Burnett came in to pitch the 8th for Minnesota, and he promptly walked Matt Wieters and Wilson Betemit. After another pitching change Chris Davis’ sacrifice groundout moved both runners into scoring position. That brought the much-maligned Mark Reynolds to the plate…
…Reynolds often draws the ire of Oriole fans for the fact that his defense can be shaddy at times, and he strikes out a lot. Flashing back to Wednesday night for a moment, Reynolds laid out to make a diving catch on a bunt that was popped up in the infield in the 9th inning. That play was instrumental in the Orioles winning that game. So moving back to yesterday, with a 3-2 count Reynolds sent a soft liner into center field scoring Betemit and Wieters, and giving the Birds a 4-3 lead. Along with a three-run homer on Monday night, Reynolds very quietly had a very good series in Minneapolis. Jim Johnson shut Minnesota down in the 9th, and the Orioles were able to salvage a split in this series.
While Minnesota is a team that the Orioles should probably handle, you’ll always take a split in a four-game series on the road. Especially given how that series started out for the Orioles. The Orioles now find themselves back in second place in the AL East, a half game ahead of the surging Boston Red Sox. New York lost to Oakland yesterday, so the net result is that the Birds are now only nine games back of the Yankees. However they remain a half game out of the wild card race behind both Detroit and the L.A. Angels (of Anaheim).
The Orioles will be in Cleveland for a four-game series starting tonight. Cleveland took three-of-four from the Birds in Baltimore prior to the break, however given the final two games in Minnesota the Orioles come into the series with some confidence. Miguel Gonzalez will make his third start tonight after two pretty solid starts preceding this game. He’ll be opposed by Cleveland’s veteran starter Derek Lowe. On a personal note, I hopped a flight last April and went to Cleveland with the Orioles for two games. If you’re not heading to Ocean City this weekend for some fun in the sun and of course Thrasher’s french fries (and you have the cash of course!), I’d recommend making the short trip out to the city on the Cuyahoga river. Cleveland’s a great city with great fans, and Progressive Field is a spectacular place to catch a game. It was modeled after Camden Yards, so I’ve always felt like it was a park where the O’s should hit fairly well. Obviously the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a huge attraction in the city, and it’s only a few blocks from Progressive Field. I was impressed last year with the number of Oriole fans that made the trip, however I suppose it makes sense given that it’s only about a 90 minute flight. My overall impression of the city was the Cleveland Rocks!
Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala