The Baltimore Orioles could probably get used to this west coast thing if they keep winning games. However as has always been the case they’ll only keep winning if they focus on one game at a time and not get ahead of themselves. That aside, Wei-Yin Chen turned in what was without a doubt the best start of the season from an Oriole pitcher. Chen’s line: 8 IP, 2 H, 2 BB, 5 K. With that, Chen became the first Oriole pitcher to go seven innings plus in 2013 (eight innings at that).
Unfortunately for Chen, he was matched pretty much pitch-by-pitch by Oakland starter Tommy Milone. This was the kind of game where it was almost unfair that one guy had to lose. Oakland obtained Milone as a minor league prospect in the trade that sent Gio Gonzalez to the Washington Nationals last year. They brought him to the big leagues in 2012, and he thrived last year. 2013 has brought some struggles for Milone, however he probably turned in his best effort of the season last night in a losing effort.
This game was your classic pitchers duel, and it was scoreless until the top of the seventh. If this was a staring contest luckily for Chen and the O’s, Milone blinked first. J.J. Hardy led off the inning with a single, and was able to advance to second on Josh Reddick‘s error. With one out, designated hitter Steve Pearce came to the plate and promptly singled Hardy home. That went as an unearned run against Milone, however it also gave the Orioles a lead which would stand up.
Admittedly I was a bit surprised that Buck Showalter sent Chen back out to pitch the eighth inning. His pitch count wasn’t too high, however with such a slim lead it felt like the perfect time to turn things over to one of the best bullpens in baseball. Chen struggled a bit with two outs, but ultimately was able to record all three without incident. In total Chen threw 106 pitches, and admittedly Showalter probably saved the use of a reliever by sending him back out and getting him through eight. With the doubleheader last weekend, an extra-inning game (that required the use of multiple relievers) on Wednesday, and the trip out west Wednesday evening, the Oriole bullpen appears to be surprisingly rested. They only needed two relievers on Thursday, and neither of them worked last night. Therefore going into this afternoon’s game one would imagine that the entire bullpen is available for work.
Just for good measure, the Birds added two insurance runs in the top of the ninth. With the bases loaded and one down, Nate McLouth pinch-hit for Alexi Casilla and reached base on another Oakland error. Nick Markakis then hit a sac fly to left field, scoring Chris Dickerson (who had come on to pinch-run for Nolan Reimold). Buck Showalter had been warming up closer Jim Johnson as well as Brian Matusz in the pen, and had the O’s taken a lead of 4-0 or more Matusz probably would have come in to pitch the last of the ninth. However with the game at 3-0 and thus a save situation, Johnson entered the game and after allowing one base runner shut down Oakland in the ninth to close out another win.
I mentioned the Oriole pen above; Oakland’s bullpen is probably fairly gassed. They were somewhat in the same boat as the Orioles coming into the series in that they finished a series with Boston (at Fenway) and flew cross-country to come home. (In fact, their game in Boston was Wednesday night where as the O’s played Toronto in the afternoon.) However they were forced to use multiple relievers on Thursday night, and then another three relievers last night after Milone departed.
Birdland will get a respite from the late-night 10 PM starts today and tomorrow, as the Orioles will play Oakland on both days at 4 PM. We won’t know for sure until the lineups are published, but I would expect Taylor Teagarden to be behind the dish this afternoon given that it’s a day game after a night game. The Orioles will send Chris Tillman to the mound this afternoon, coming off of a great start against Toronto on Monday night in which he was non decisioned. Tillman will be opposed by A.J. Griffin of Oakland. If the Orioles can win either this afternoon or tomorrow, they’ll have won their first series at the Oakland Coliseum since July of 2007.