Going into yesterday afternoon’s series finale in Anaheim, the Baltimore Orioles had not managed to win any games on getaway day Sundays in 2013. With the 11-game road trip coming to a conclusion, it was already a success with the O’s having clinched no worse than a 6-5 record (on the trip). However a win would give them a 7-4 mark, and series wins against Anaheim and Oakland (two teams against whom they struggled in 2012). The O’s got off to an auspicious 1-0 lead on Adam Jones‘ RBI-double. However Jason Hammel appeared to struggle as he got into the last of the first. Anaheim put up three runs on Hammel, due in part to an apparent incorrect call on a steal of second base, and a small strike zone.
Anaheim starter Jerome Williams shut the Orioles down…for a few innings. J.J. Hardy‘s two-run homer in the fourth tied the game at three which put the Orioles back in the game. That tie was short lived as Mike Trout deposited one of his own in the seats in the last of the inning. However in what’s becoming a motif for the season, Manny Machado came through when his team needed him. Following a Nate McLouth walk, Machado bested Trout’s solo homer with a two-run shot that went into the Orioles’ bullpen and was caught by Pedro Strop in his cap.
That was really all the Orioles needed, although there were a few mini-jams brewing on the horizon. Pedro Strop came in and walked Mark Trumbo with one out in the seventh. Trumbo was awarded second base on a balk that was called on Strop, although replays were inconclusive at best as to whether or not Strop actually attempted to deceive the runner. However Strop pitched out of the jam, catching Trumbo in a rundown on a fielder’s choice, and then getting Howie Kendrick to ground out.
The Orioles also saw the return of first baseman Chris Davis in yesterday’s game, which is potentially the best news of the day. Davis of course appeared to injure his knee on Friday night, and based on the preliminary moments following the play it appeared that Davis was bound for the DL. The Orioles got word on Saturday that Davis would probably not need to go on a DL stint, however I was as surprised as anyone to see him in the lineup yesterday. I would have put money on Buck Showalter giving him a day off, and then playing him again on Tuesday night against Kansas City (following another day off today). However Davis “talked his way into the lineup,” and the Orioles saw the dividends during the game. Not only did Davis pick a few balls out of the dirt at first base, but his RBI-single in the eighth inning put the Orioles ahead 6-4. Davis himself would later score on Ryan Flaherty‘s two-RBI single to put the O’s ahead 8-4, which ended up being the final score.
If pitchers are going to have 10 good starts, 10 bad, and 10 in-between, needless to say that this wasn’t one of Jason Hammel’s good starts. Hammel’s line: 6 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 3 BB, 5 K. Hammel struggled from the get-go, but yet somehow managed to limit the damage. I’ve often said that pitchers by nature will find themselves in trouble at times in games, and it’s how you handle the trouble that separates the men from the boys. So file this in the “in-between category” for Jason Hammel; incidentally the success or failure of your season lies in how you perform in those “in-between games.” If you can do what Hammel did yesterday in keeping the Orioles as close as he could, you’re looking at a pretty dominant season.
The Birds end up with a long western road swing like this every year, however it seems that their “move” has been to go 3-8 (or something along those lines) in those trips in the past. The Orioles struggled against Anaheim and Oakland last season, and yet they took three-of-four against both of those teams. (Consequently they seemed to dominate Seattle, but dropped two-of-three there.) However Orioles fans will take winning seven out of eleven games on the west coast. The thing that struck me in the Anaheim series over the weekend was that I saw a lot of “team baseball.” The Orioles successfully moved runners over, sacrificed guys home, and picked up their teammates when they may have made a mistake. That’s what winning teams do. The O’s will now have their first day off in three weeks today at home, which I presume will mostly be spent recouping from the traveling. They’ll take on Kansas City at home starting on Tuesday night for three games…the fans will barely be able to recognize the players in their home whites.