The Baltimore Orioles symbolically finished what their 2012 incarnation started yesterday in that they defeated the NY Yankees. That might seem a bit strange given that it’s now a new season, however it sounded poetic enough! Jason Hammel pitched six solid innings for the win in a game that was highlighted by Orioles’ home runs. Hammel’s line: 6 IP, 8 H, 3 R (2 earned), 1 BB, 4 K. As fatal as walks were for the Birds on Friday night, Hammel’s lack of walks is something that stands out in his line score. Perhaps the most important part of Hammel’s afternoon came in the last of the sixth with Hammel clearly tiring. Vernon Wells followed Travis Hafner‘s ground out with a homer, followed by the lone walk and a base hit. Hammel struck out Lyle Overbay, and induced a pop out to Jason Nix.
The Orioles jumped all over NY starter Phil Hughes early in the game. Adam Jones grounded into a fielder’s choice (RBI) which scored Nate McLouth in the first inning to give the Orioles the lead. Ryan Flaherty homered in the second, Nick Markakis in the third, and Nolan Reimold in the fourth. The Orioles also scored on another fielder’s choice-RBI (this time by J.J. Hardy) in the third inning to close out the scoring for the afternoon. NY made things interesting with the aforementioned Vernon Wells homer in the sixth, however the Orioles’ bullpen was solid. Brian Matusz and Darren O’Day each pitched out of mini-jams in the seventh and eighth, and Jim Johnson closed out perhaps one of the easiest lasts of the ninth in the history of Yankee Stadium to preserve the win and record the save.
Following their rough game Friday night, this win was perhaps the most important of the young season thus far. Losses as such can often send teams into tailspins, yet this Oriole team showed a lot of grit and bravado in hanging on to win this game as opposed to allowing NY to pull their oft-seen dramatics and snatch the victory away. Two or three years ago had the Orioles even been in a position like that where they were looking for the victory late, odds are the bullpen would have blown it. Furthermore as I said above, after tough losses it’s imperative that you get back and get some positive momentum back under your belt as soon as you can. I always point back to the “Mother’s Day Massacre” in May of 2007 when the Orioles blew a four-run lead in the last of the ninth. That derailed that particular season and then some. Friday night’s loss might not have been quite that severe or dramatic, however the fact is that the O’s didn’t let it mushroom into something more.
Tonight the Orioles will make their “return” to the Sunday night prime time game on ESPN. I’m going off of my own memory here, but I think that the last time the O’s played on Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN was in September of 2008 in the final game at the old Yankee Stadium. (They’ve had a couple of doubleheaders that fell on Sunday between then and now, but that’s a different story.) I’ve always seen Sunday Night Baseball as MLB’s version of Monday Night Football. Obviously the NFL is mainly a Sunday afternoon league, however similarly in MLB most teams play during the 1 PM hour (local time) on Sundays. However the league picks this one game each week to showcase in prime time before a national television audience. It should not be lost on Orioles fans that the league selected this game for this purpose. It’s a direct reflection of their exciting 2012 season.
As great as it will be for Orioles fans to see their team in prime time, this game is also thrown on top of the pile of strange start times for the O’s to start the season. Five of their first seven games were afternoon games, they had an off day in the middle of the week in Boston, a 4 PM start yesterday, and now a Sunday nighter. Baseball players are creatures of habbit, and an 8 PM start on a Sunday does them no favors in terms of getting into a groove. Wei-Yin Chen will get the start for the O’s, and he’ll be opposed by Hiroki Kuroda. I would encourage fans to tune into ESPN’s Baseball Tonight to watch the highlights of the rest of the league’s games, as they’ll also preview the O’s and NY throughout the program.