Baseball history suggests that two teams are going to split a doubleheader approximately 80% of the time. Therefore with last night’s win over LA, the Baltimore Orioles became members of the “proud 20%” by sweeping both ends of a twin bill. This of course was done under the back drop of an on-field ceremony before the game honoring the late Earl Weaver. The likes of Cal Ripken Jr, Brooks & Frank Robinson, Rick Dempsey, and Jim Palmer were on hand to honor a man who they all admired. The Baltimore fans turned out as well, with the game being an announced sellout (with 10-12K fans walking up and buying tickets).
Wei-Yin Chen turned in perhaps his best performance of the season, earning his first victory of 2013. Chen’s line: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 4 BB, 2 K. He was a bit shaky in the first inning, however he also snapped a streak of four consecutive games in which Oriole pitchers had given up first inning home runs. If the Orioles tapped just a bit more into their bullpen than they would have liked in the first game yesterday, they atoned for that in game two. Chen pitched six innings, and the Orioles leaned heavily on Tommy Hunter to close out the final three innings of the game (earning his first career save). Ultimately I think that the O’s would like to see their starters go seven innings in games, however Showalter made the right decision in yanking Chen when he did rather than risk him tiring quickly with nobody up in the bullpen. The O’s now find themselves in a situation where T.J. McFarland was never used in yesterday’s games, so presumably he would be the first one out of the bullpen this afternoon if need be. Showalter said following the game that everyone – with the exception of Hunter – would probably be available this afternoon.
With the Birds trailing 1-0 in the last of the second, Chris Davis got a hold of a pitch that might well still be orbiting somewhere in the mid-Atlantic region. With the game tied in the fifth, we saw why a good running game can make such a difference in games. Nate McLouth drew a one-out walk, and then stole second base. However the catcher Ellis’ throw was errant, allowing McLouth to go to third. Manny Machado (who had himself a night) doubled McLouth home, giving the Orioles a 2-1 lead. If a guy with less speed and prowess had been on first, that doesn’t happen. One might argue that McLouth could have possibly scored from first on the double, however you get the point. Machado would later score on Adam Jones‘ RBI-double to give the O’s a 3-1 lead.
We didn’t know it at the time, however Los Angeles wasn’t looking to score more than the one run last night. The Birds could have stopped right there and just played out the final innings of the game, winning it 3-1. However we already had the good defense, and good pitching, and of course on Earl Weaver night a three-run homer would be rather fitting as well, right?! Following singles by Ryan Flaherty and Nate McLouth, Manny Machado – who of course already had impacted the game by giving the Orioles the lead – got a hold of a 2-2 pitch which was deposited in the seats. One could almost see Earl grinning from above as Machado ran the bases. On a side note, it’s worth stating that on paper the LA Dodgers have a great team. I also think that Don Mattingly has the makings of a great manager who might have a lot of success throughout his managerial career. With that said, I’ve heard there are rumors that he might be a bit on the hot seat given the way the team has started the season. Certainly he has to find a way to motivate his team, however I would encourage Magic Johnson and his partners to stick with “Donnie Baseball.” I think that in the long run he’ll make them proud moreso than he’ll make them scratch their heads.
The series concludes this afternoon at 1:30 as the Orioles go for their first series sweep of 2013. With the win last night, they have their first three-game winning streak as well. After watching Jason Hammel struggle mightily and then right himself, and Chen have a good outing last night, Jake Arrieta will head to the mound for the O’s hoping that some of that karma might rub off on him. Here’s the key to this afternoon’s ballgame for Arrieta and the Orioles: attack the strike zone. Oriole starters (and Arrieta in particular) have been a bit tentative in attacking the zone. It’s bad enough when your pitch count is driving up when guys foul balls off left and right, however when you draw high pitch counts that result in walks or base hits, that further compounds the issue. It really comes down to the basic notion of trusting your stuff. Arrieta’s stuff is good enough to where he should have no problem doing that. Arrieta will be opposed by Los Angeles’ Chad Billingsley, with whom Orioles fans might be a bit familiar as he pitched for the Washington Nationals previously.