Orioles impressive in series opener


As enthusiastic as the 28,900 plus at Camden Yards was last night, you would have thought U2 was playing. The Orioles put on one heck of a show prior to the fireworks display that was promised for fans in attendance at last night’s game. However from my standpoint the story of the night was the fans. Granted the yard wasn’t sold out, but we know that’s going to take some time. The chants of “Let’s Go O’s!” cascading down towards the playing surface was reminiscent of the thundering “roar from 34” of years past. The O’s have had nights where they’ve had decent crowds over the past 14 years. However I would challenge you to show me a crowd that was as enthusiastic and as into the game as what we saw last night.

Jason Hammel was able to go just a bit deeper into the game than he had been going, pitching six innings. Hammel had one of those “in-between starts” that I like to reference from time to time, and the Orioles of course were able to come out ahead. Hammel was fairly generous in allowing runners on base and allowing them to move around on base. However he didn’t allow them to get home, and he showed a great propensity for getting out of jams that he himself had caused.

Perhaps the moment for which the entire ballpark had been waiting was for Adam Jones’ first at-bat. Jones of course remains in serious talks for a contract extension with the O’s, and he received a standing ovation from the fans as he stepped to the plate for the first time. For quite some time, the sac fly-RBI that Jones produced in that at-bat was the only offense the O’s could muster. Then the fifth inning came around; Xavier Avery drew a walk, and was promptly picked off at first base. However rather than get caught up in no-man’s land, Avery kept running and was ultimately safe at second base. Avery went to third on Robert Andino’s infield hit, however Andino ended up picked of as well. What’s the old saying, “fool me once shame on you…?” But Andino was able to successfully curl around the tag of Kansas City’s second baseman (Falu) and was correctly ruled safe. Off of a Markakis double followed by a RBI-singles by Jones and Chris Davis, the O’s put five runs on the board in that 5th inning. Davis would later homer in the game as the Orioles closed out a solid 8-2 win over Kansas City.

The Birds also made some roster moves prior to the game only because it had been awhile and the rest of the league was starting to ask questions. Catcher Luis Exposito was optioned to Norfolk in favor of Ronnie Paulino, and Stu Pomeranz was also recalled from the Tides. In the corresponding roster move, veteran Bill Hall was DFA’d to make room on the 40-man roster. Pomeranz actually got into the game last night giving up a late homer in the eighth inning to Jeff Francoeur, however the O’s had the game in hand at that point. The Orioles will have some decisions to make in the future as the likes of Mark Reynolds, Matt Lindstrom, Zach Britton, and Brian Roberts look to rejoin the team after their injuries.

The O’s and Kansas City will resume the series in a rare late-afternoon matinee today at the yard which pits Wei-Yin Chen against Kansas City’s Felipe Paulino. Chen of course is coming off of his first clunker of a start this past Sunday in Washington, so he’ll be looking to rebound from that. Many people feel that the above-mentioned Luis Exposito was sent down to the minors due in large part to the way he called that game against Washington. Chen ended up throwing a plethora of breaking pitches, and the Nationals responded accordingly. Paulino has had some trouble commanding his pitches, however he has good strikeout numbers (21 in 18 2/3’s innings).

I really can’t stress enough the affect that the Oriole fans had last night, and one has to hope and believe that we’ll see that trend continue for the final two games of the series and the homestand. Buck Showalter addressed the crowd in his postgame presser, and he felt that the crowd was engaged. For so long even though sometimes the Birds would draw big crowds they wouldn’t be as into the game as what we saw from the crowd last night. A good play would draw “polite golf applause,” unless of course Boston and NY were in town in which case the yard would be packed…with enthusiastic out-of-town fans. It takes awhile to get out of a losing mindset, but we’re starting to see that process begin. And the rumors of an Adam Jones contract extension don’t hurt either.

Follow me on Twitter @DomenicVadala