I suspect that when most fans saw the Orioles’ lineup for yesterday afternoon’s game against Chicago they might have cringed just a bit when they saw that Taylor Teagarden was catching instead of Matt Wieters. When you take Wieters out of the lineup and plug in a guy that’s hitting .132, you might be thinking that will decrease your power in a game. Not so yesterday, as Teagarden had a career day. First off in the second inning A.J. Pierzynski tried to score on a Ramirez single; Adam Jones fired a strike towards home, and Teagarden applied the tag. While Chicago immediately took a 1-0 lead a moment later on an RBI-single, that went down as a huge out and a run erased for Chicago.
Teagarden came up in the last of the third and promptly homered on a 2-0 count to tie the game. Teagarden will probably be the first to tell you that he isn’t the greatest offensive player in the world. Yet he’s chosen his spots this year to break out, and when he’s done so they’ve been big moments. After doubles by Nick Markakis and J.J. Hardy the Orioles suddenly led 2-1. Adam Jones figured he’d join the hit-and-homer parade as well, sending a two-run homer over the wall to give the O’s a 4-1. Teagarden wasn’t finished however; in the fourth with Nate McClouth on second Teagarden sent a double to center field, giving the Orioles a 5-1 lead. Chicago was able to score two in the ninth against Pedro Strop however “Dirty Jim” Johnson was able to come in and close out the game, giving the Birds a 5-3 win.
The other story in this game was the effort put in by starter Zach Britton. Quite simply, it might have been his best outing in the majors. Britton’s line: 8 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 10 K, 0 BB. Ten strikeouts over eight innings is an incredible feat. However one of Britton’s achilles heels has been walks; in eight innings of work, he didn’t issue one base on balls. Britton was able to command that two-seam fastball that’s so important to him for his success yesterday, and his eight innings of work came at a good time for the Orioles. Day games after night games can be tough for teams, and a day after the bullpen had to pitch a bit of long relief on Wednesday most of the relievers got the day off yesterday.
The O’s now head to NY to face the Yankees, who in the spirit of Mother Goose’s “Humpty-Dumpty,” have had a great fall. The Birds trail NY by three games in the American League East standings; obviously a sweep would put them in a statistical dead heat for the division lead. However I would submit that no fan should ever go into a series expecting a sweep, least of all at Yankee Stadium. (Granted you don’t want to expect to lose any game either, however you get the idea.) Most people seem to be waiting for the stretch of games that would finally break the Orioles’ back; hasn’t happened yet! Needless to say, this is the first time in 15 years that the O’s and Yankees have played a meaningful (from the Orioles’ standpoint) September series. Next weekend will presumably be the second time in 15 years. There’s pressure on this Oriole team because finally it seems people are starting to take notice. However no team has ever dug itself out of a hole and not had pressure. Let us not forget that in sports the men are separated from the boys by who stands up to that pressure, and who’s dwarfed by it.
Let there be no mistake about the fact that yesterday’s game was a big win for these Baltimore Orioles. Chicago’s a team that’s jockeying for the playoffs as well, so an even split wouldn’t have been the worst thing it the world. It also wouldn’t have been overly surprising given that they’re a professional team also and they’ve put as much effort into their record as the Orioles. However these fighting Showalters went out and won the game, giving them a series win by taking three-of-four. It’s little things like that which help you to stand up to the pressures of series’ like this weekend’s. For what it’s worth, the Orioles are expected to sign pitcher Randy Wolf today which will add depth to the staff. Britton was officially optioned to triple-A Norfolk after the game, however he can return on September 4th (with rosters expanding) so he’ll be eligible to pitch in his normal spot. Where as past Oriole teams have thought oh no, we’re going to NY this weekend, these guys’ attitudes seem to be bring it!
Miguel Gonzalez heads to the bump for the Birds tonight in New York. Gonzalez hasn’t pitched since August 20th, however he’s won three of his last four starts. He’ll be opposed by New York’s Hiroki Kuroda, who’s been a work horse all season. He defeated the O’s back in April after pitching seven innings of one-run ball. Strap yourselves in folks, we’re starting to get to the point where we can say this is it!