Courtesy of USA Today

Baltimore Orioles: A time for hitting with RISP

Remember Pete Seeger’s song Turn, Turn, Turn!, made popular by The Byrds? It of course dictates the words of Ecclesiastes chapter 3 in the Bible…“for all things there is  season.” Truer words were never spoken, and last night’s game was the season for the Orioles to start hitting with runners-in-scoring-position. In their 4-0 win at Tampa, the Byrds – I mean – Birds (I’m full of freudian slips here and there!) went 5-for-9 with RISP. On the other hand, Tampa was 0-for-4; limiting the opponent to nothing when they get into scoring position is almost equally as important.

Wei-Yin Chen once again provided the O’s with a start to remember, as he painted the strike zone all night. Chen’s line: 7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K. On the other hand, the O’s definitely seemed to finally catch a break in terms of an opponent’s starter. How often have we seen this team go into games this year facing a team or a starting pitcher that’s just recently started to heat up? I don’t pay too much attention to that entire concept because it suggests that as a team you don’t control your own destiny. If you look at every game and every series from the perspective of “this team is hot or cold so we either don’t stand a chance or we have a great shot,”  you’re saying that whatever your efforts are in a game will be pointless.

That aside, Hellickson was off his game from the beginning, and the O’s made him pay. Nick Markakis set the tone with a nine-pitch walk to lead off the game after being down 0-2 in the count early. That’s exactly the type of at-bat you want to have to start things off; it put Hellickson on the defensive early, and he never really recovered. Markakis later went to second on Adam Jones’ single, and then scored on an RBI-single by Matt Wieters. Speaking of which, Wieters proceeded to steal second base on an odd sequence where both Hellickson and catcher Javier Molina seemed to forget that he was on base. Just to show that he wasn’t kidding around, Wieters decided to swipe a bag in the third as well. He was later thrown out at home plate, however he made his point. Note to Tampa: you do realize that Wieters runs like the Queen Mary, don’t you? Here's to 2011 breakouts!

Nate McClouth made his Orioles’ debut after his contract was purchased from triple-A Norfolk. (McClouth had a clause in his contract which stated that he could opt out of it on August 3rd if he was not called to the majors; the Orioles designated Endy Chavez for assignment as a corresponding roster move.) On the first pitch he saw McClouth doubled to right field, and later scored on Nick Markakis’ RBI-single. Chris Davis followed suit in the fourth with the bases loaded as he sent the first pitch into center for a two-RBI single giving the O’s a 4-0 lead which stood up for the rest of the game.

Once you get a lead like that, it’s up to your pitching to hold it. And hold it Wei-Yin Chen did! The few times he allowed runners past first base, he managed to pull out a huge strikeout or find a way to get the batter to fly out. With Jim Johnson on to close the game (in a non-save situation) and one out in the last of the ninth, Will Rhymes pinch hit and sent a grounder off of Johnson’s glove towards short. J.J. Hardy made a valiant move just to get to the ball, and then whirled around and threw Rhymes out at first in what was a gold glove-caliber play. Ultimately for all of the despair and disappointment that was in the clubhouse following Friday night’s loss, this win put the Birds back into second place in the AL East and was extremely uplifting for the ballclub. Throw in the fact that Oakland and New York both lost, and it was an all-around good day for the Orioles.

You’re only as good as your next day’s starter, and given how Miguel Gonzalez has pitched this year the Orioles will probably have a bit of confidence coming into this afternoon’s game. However Gonzalez was rocked around pretty badly by Tampa a couple of weeks ago, but rebounded in New York this past week. He’ll be faced by David Price, who’s dominated the Orioles over his career. He’s beaten the O’s twice this year already, and for his career he’s 6-2 against them with a 2.45 ERA. This sounds like a 2-1 Tampa victory, right? Could be, however Jeremy Hellickson had been pretty good against the Orioles as well going into last night; if in fact for all things there is a season, perhaps now is a time for the Orioles’ luck against some of these Tampa starters to change!

Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala

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