There are a couple of reasons I would classify last night’s 10-2 win over Oakland as “big” for the Baltimore Orioles. First off, they don’t seem to play well in Oakland. The last time the O’s took a series from Oakland in Oakland was 2007. (They haven’t won a season series against Oakland since 1997.) The ballpark out there might well be the worst venue in sports, but the home team seems to like it just fine for just that reason. Secondly, if there was ever a game for the O’s to come out sluggish, it could have been this one. Playing a game on the west coast the day after a home series finale and having to fly cross-country is pretty rough. In fairness, the Orioles probably got into Oakland before the A’s did, as they finished their series in Boston the night before. However few people would have blamed them for being jet lagged, given that the league did them few favors with the schedule in this instance.
Jason Hammel won his third game of 2013 to stretch his record to 3-1. Hammel’s line: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 2 K. Things appeared to be going somewhat south early on when a two-RBI double gave Oakland a 2-0 lead in the second inning. However showing classic east coast grit, the Birds battled back in the third by taking a 3-2 lead. Nate McLouth continued to be an on base and RBI-machine, singling Nolan Reimold home from second to cut Oakland’s lead to 2-1. After stealing second base McLouth was then singled home in his own right by Nick Markakis, who scored on Adam Jones‘ RBI-double. I recall a few years ago when it was obvious that the Orioles were pretty much a station-to-station team. Now when someone gets on base it could be just as good as a double given this team’s propensity to run. McLouth stealing second was the key moment of that inning, as not only did he drive in a run by getting on base but he put himself in a position to be driven in.
Chris Davis led off the sixth inning with a solo home run, his eighth homer of the season. You can classify this game in the category of “everyone contributed,” as the Orioles sacrificed and singled various players home to arrive at the final score of 10-2. This game included the highest run total of the season offensively for the Orioles. It was also probably Hammel’s best performance of the year; there must be something in the air out there. The other key to the game which sets things up well moving forward for the Birds is that they only needed to use two relievers. Troy Patton pitched two innings and T.J. McFarland pitched one. The Orioles had pretty much gotten back to a point where the bullpen was as rested as it could be in the wake of the doubleheader last weekend prior to the pen having to put out six innings in Wednesday’s 11-inning game. So the light work load last night really helped a few guys rest up. We knew that closer Jim Johnson wouldn’t be available last night, however even if he had been available to pitch Showalter wouldn’t bring his closer on with an eight-run lead.
The Orioles also completed a roster move prior to last night’s game. After optioning Josh Stinson back to triple-A Norfolk the Orioles recalled up southpaw Zach Britton, who joined them in Oakland. Britton has been assigned to the bullpen – for now. Assuming he’s not needed between now and then, he’s a serious candidate to start Monday night in Seattle. Buck Showalter has said that he’ll cross that bridge when he gets there, however it’s something that has to be in the back of his mind. Granted Britton could still be used at some point over the weekend in Oakland, however I suspect that the game about which Showalter was really worried in terms of bullpen support was last night. Nevertheless Britton is with the team, and available to pitch in any capacity.
The series continues tonight with another 10 PM eastern time start. Wei-Yin Chen will get the ball tonight, and he’ll be opposed by Tommy Milone and his 4.26 ERA. In two outings against Oakland last season, Chen had an ERA of .71 over 12.2 innings. He also struck out 16 batters; incidentally he also won both games. At the very least, the Orioles won’t find themselves trying to salvage a win in Oakland on getaway day, which is what’s seemed to happen the last few times they’ve visited.