O’s dig the long ball and the bullpen
As if we haven’t beaten the home run thing to death by now, 100% of the runs in the Orioles’ 4-1 victory over Boston last night came off of homers. 100%…not half, not some other percentage, but 100%. There are some people that are talking about how much the Orioles are relying on the long ball to win games. Admittedly, there is something to be said for balance in that you want to be able to plate guys by manufacturing runs. However the bottom line is that the O’s are winning games, and they’re in first place in the AL East. How long has it been since we’ve said that in late May?! If you’re able to get exactly what you need to win at any stage of the game, you’re doing okay.
Brian Matusz was possibly at his best since returning from injury last June. His fastball was strong, but the thing that impressed me the most was the “ol’ Uncle Charlie.” Matusz’s curve ball was deadly last night. It caught the likes of Ortiz, Middlebrooks, Saltalamacchia, etc. all looking on numerous occasions. If you follow my twitter feed during Oriole games (which is always active I might add!) you might have seen this tweet regarding Matusz going to the bullpen. That was me thinking out loud, however my reasoning is that if he maintains that kind of quality on his curve ball he might be a deadly left-handed specialist in the ‘pen. Granted every pitcher wants to be a starter, and I do believe that Matusz will remain as such. However with Zach Britton coming back at some point in the near future, the rotation might get crowded. Ultimately, Matusz’s line last night was as follows: 6.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 9 K.
As good as Matusz was, the bullpen played a big role in this one. Darren O’Day picked up right where Matusz left off after Matusz left to a rousing standing ovation from the Camden Yards faithful, striking out Kevin Youkilis and Middlebrooks. O’Day had previously spoken to MASN’s Amber Theoharis where he said that he felt part of the success of the Oriole bullpen thus far is how Buck Showalter’s managed it. In the past we’ve seen titles such as “8th inning guy,” or even the more commonly known “set-up man.” While Showalter does play the lefty/lefty match-up game like most managers, it boils down more so to whomever is rested and ready to come into the game. (And I still feel that the 17 inning game in Boston has given Showalter a new take on how to manage the ‘pen in terms of strategically using guys.) Ultimately, Showalter knows that each and every one of those guys is capable of getting a lefty or a righty out, and that kind of confidence trickles down to the players in the bullpen.
Steve Tolleson hit his first homer as an Oriole with a runner on in the second inning to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead. Boston’s Kevin Youkilis, in his first game back from the DL, homered in the fourth inning on a hanging Matusz fastball. The Orioles were in desperate need of an insurance run going into the later innings, however they squandered the few chances they had to push runs across. To add insult to injury, former Oriole Matt Albers came in with one out in the seventh and struck out Robert Andino and J.J. Hardy. Albers was much maligned during his time in Baltimore, as he could never seem to locate his pitches in the strike zone. He’s been lights out in Boston, and his body language has never ceased to let the Orioles know that he had never allowed a base runner to his old team…
…that is until last night. Albers returned to his old form against his old team in the 8th, as Wilson Betemit launched an epic homer over the wall to give the O’s a 4-1 lead. Jim Johnson shut the BoSox out in the ninth, as the Orioles closed out their 28th win of the year. Perhaps more importantly than any of that however was the news that came before the game that Brian Roberts would begin a rehab assignment in Bowie starting this evening. Players can take up to 20 days on rehab in the minors, and Buck Showalter indicated that Roberts would probably use the entire allotment of time (which puts his potential return to the Orioles as June 12th vs Pittsburgh at the yard). Roberts said that he expected to get two to three at bats as well as play second base while with the Bay Sox. LHP Zach Britton is also coming along, and he will also be starting a rehab assignment in the near future. Showalter said there’s a chance that Britton could join the team on the next road trip.
The Orioles close out this three-game set with Boston this afternoon in a 12:30 PM matinee at the yard. Jake Arrieta will get the ball coming off of a successful seven-inning outing in Washington last week. Arrieta had much better control of his fastball command, which put the Orioles in a position to win the game against the Nationals. Arrieta will be opposed by Daniel Bard, a converted Boston reliever. In his last outing Bard walked three of the first four batters. If Oriole hitters can be patient, they can cause traffic on the base paths. Furthermore as a former reliever, Bard might not have the stamina to go deep into the game. I’ll be interested to see what kind of lineup Buck Showalter trots out there. With tomorrow being a much needed off day, I suspect he’ll give Matt Wieters the day off so as to give him two in a row. That might allow him to DH Wieters on Saturday (when the O’s have a late afternoon matinee against Kansas City), and thus allow Wieters to catch Sunday’s game with Kansas City as well. On a personal note, happy 56th birthday to Buck Showalter!
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