Over the years Fenway Park has been a house of horrors for the Baltimore Orioles. If they weren’t blowing four-run leads on Mother’s Day in the last of the ninth, they were flat out getting killed from the get-go by the likes of David Ortiz, Kevin Youkilis, etc. However as of 2012 none of that is really relevant any longer, and on top of that the O’s have won their first series at Fenway of 2013 by virtue of last night’s 3-2 win. One thing that hasn’t changed is the toughness of the games with Boston, but the difference is that now the clutch performers seem to be on the Orioles’ side.
Chris Tillman showed some improvement over his previous start last weekend against Minnesota. Tillman’s line: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 5 K. He wasn’t perfect, as he had a very tough third inning, however he was able to rebound and put the Orioles in a position to win the game. I think that the most impressive part of Tillman’s outing was his breaking pitches, which he was getting over consistently for strikes. That appeared to be his “out pitch” in a sense, and he used it very effectively to freeze hitters on numerous occasions.
The Orioles took a 1-0 lead on Boston and spot starter (out of the bullpen) Alfredo Aceves on Chris Davis‘ moon shot home run in the second inning. I found it interesting that in his subsequent at-bat in the fourth inning Aceves walked Davis on five pitches, not ever really getting close to the strike zone save for one pitch. Boston was able to take a 2-1 lead on two consecutive RBI-singles in the third, the one inning in which Tillman looked shaky. However we’re starting to see that “Fighting Showalters spirit” in these Birds that we saw so often last year. Part of that comes from Buck Showalter himself as a baseball man. In the fifth inning Manny Machado hit a one-out infield single. Nick Markakis then worked the count full, and Showalter started Machado at first base. Markakis grounded out, however by virtue of Machado running the Orioles stayed out of the double-play. Machado would score on Adam Jones‘ RBI-single a moment later to tie the game.
Many people came away from last weekend’s series loss to Minnesota thinking that the O’s lost two games they shouldn’t have. You could make that argument, just as you could argue that they won two games that could have gone either way up in Boston this week. My point is that over the course of the season those kinds of things are going to even out. However the win last night was very big for several reasons. First off for those measuring the standings from day one, it put the Orioles back into first place and it put them one game above .500. However the Orioles have now won two series’ out of the three they’ve played; the two series victories were in the division. As close as the AL East is expected to be this year and as often as these teams see each other, you want to win games and series’ within the division.
The Orioles now head to New York for three with the NY Yankees, who find themselves in a bit of a strange position. New York was rained out on Wednesday and Thursday in Cleveland, meaning that they’ve in effect had two de facto off-days. That’s pretty rare over the course of the grind of a major league season. I suppose the question is whether or not that gives the Orioles a bit of a competitive advantage or disadvantage. I would submit that it puts them at a slight advantage given that NY hasn’t played a game since Wednesday; they were scoring runs in buckets before this “hiatus,” so in effect it’s almost like starting over.
This will be a re-match of last year’s ALDS, won by New York in five games. However New York is considerably less powerful than they were back then (and at that time they were already waning), so it’ll be interesting to see how things shake down this weekend. One big advantage that they’ll have is sending C.C. Sabathia to the mound against the O’s tonight. For his career, Sabathia is 16-4 with a 3.12 ERA against the O’s. However many of those wins were pre-2012, and he also had the likes of Jeter, ARod, Granderson, and Texeira putting runs on the board for him offensively. The Orioles will counter with Miguel Gonzalez, who’s coming off of a gem of a game in Tampa last week. There’s the potential for inclement weather in NY tonight as well, so hopefully there’s a window to get the game in. Just as a side note, tomorrow’s game is a 4 PM start time, and Sunday the Orioles will make their return to primetime with an 8 PM Sunday Night ESPN game.