Many fans pointed to Matt Wieters‘ offensive production in the first half as something upon which could potentially be improved for the Baltimore Orioles. If the first game of the second half of the season is any indication, O’s fans might be getting their wish. Granted Wieters only went 1-for-4 (with two strikeouts). However that one at-bat in which he reached base was a solo homer that gave the Birds a 1-0 lead deep in the heart of Texas. As potent as the Orioles’ offense has been, teams would really need to watch out if Wieters decides to start heating up. Incidentally, I would submit that Wieters’ defensive contributions more than make up for any deficiencies at the plate.
Wei-Yin Chen was about as solid as one could be as he won his fourth straight game (dating back to prior to his DL stint). Chen’s line: 6.1 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 3 K. Texas is a lineup that’s given the Orioles some fits over time, however Chen was able to minimize the damage for the most part when guys would reach base. Following Wieters’ second-inning home run to give the Birds an early lead, Brian Roberts scored from first base (following a lead-off walk) in the top of the third on a Nate McLouth RBI-double. Texas was able to put up a run in the last of the fourth to cut the Orioles’ lead to 2-1, on a sac fly-RBI. However aside from that, Chen and the Orioles’ bullpen kept Texas off the board.
It’s also interesting to note that the O’s are starting to make teams pay for their mistakes. Over the past decade or so I seem to remember the Orioles catching breaks in games at times, only to essentially let the other team off the hook. Brian Roberts took a lead-off walk in the third, and he was driven in by McLouth. In the past perhaps a guy that led off an inning with a walk would have died on base, or been part of a twin-killing later in the inning. In the fifth inning Manny Machado recorded an infield hit, and was doubled home by Nick Markakis to give the Birds a 3-1 lead.
From that point on, it was all pitching (which is a great sign for the Orioles). Chen was lifted following an Ian Kinsler one-out double in the seventh, and replaced by Darren O’Day. O’Day retired five straight batters to bring the Birds up to the ninth inning, at which point Jim Johnson entered to close the game. While Johnson made it a bit interesting, he ultimately recorded three outs before Texas could bring anyone home and the O’s took game one of this series 3-1.
Unfortunately the O’s did not gain any ground because both Boston and Tampa won their games last night. (Orioles fans find themselves in the rare position of rooting for the NY Yankees to defeat Boston this weekend.) However the Birds did pick up a game on Texas in the wild card standings, and are now only a half game out of the final spot. It may be a bit early to be watching these types of things, however this is the stretch and the grind of the season. The good news for the O’s is that they’ll see Boston and Tampa plenty during the final two-and-a-half months, so they’ll have opportunities to directly take on those teams.
The series continues this evening at 8 PM eastern time, with Miguel Gonzalez taking the mound against Texas. He’ll be opposed by former Orioles’ farm hand, Ross Wolf. The O’s have already defeated Wolf once this year back at Camden Yards, and they’ll look to do it again tonight.