Oriole bats come alive — just enough


During the previous series in NY one might have thought that the Orioles had other things on their minds aside from hitting…maybe Thrasher’s fries “downy oshun” hon?! The bats didn’t exactly come alive per se last night; you’d be hard pressed to argue that given the fact that the Orioles only put two runs across. However they did come alive just enough, as Jason Hammel held Washington bats to only one run in the Orioles’ 2-1 victory. Before I go any further I want to give a huge shout-out to the Oriole fans. Camden Yards was packed and buzzing last night, and similar turn outs are expected throughout the weekend. The question most cynics will ask is how many of those people were Washington fans? There appeared to be a token few…more fans than Kansas City or Cleveland would bring to Baltimore lets say. However 90% of the crowd appeared to be wearing orange. Baseball is alive and well in Baltimore.

Jason Hammel appeared to regress from his performance last Saturday in Atlanta (please note the sarcasm). I suppose that a one-hit shutout is going to be tough to beat; nevertheless, Hammel actually gave up a run (which wasn’t earned), along with four more hits than he did in last week’s game. Welcome back to earth Jason Hammel! (Again, please note the sarcasm!) Hammel painted the plate with his fastballs last night, which might well have been a dangerous idea. Washington does seem to have their offensive struggles but they’re a team that likes fastballs. However Hammel’s stuff was good enough to where they weren’t able to do much with it.

Washington’s lone run of the game was scored on a Mark Reynolds’ E3 in the fifth inning. As a result of not giving up any earned runs for the second straight start, Jason Hammel’s ERA is now down to 2.61. Not too shabby; after the game manager Buck Showalter made a case for Hammel to be on the AL all-star team. Hammel dismissed the importance of being on the roster, however there’s no question that it’s deserved. (Also worth mentioning, AL manager Ron Washington would be hard pressed not to include Showalter himself as a member of the coaching staff.)

Washington starter Jordan Zimmerman was almost just as effective as Hammel for the most part. He left a couple of pitches up, and those came back to haunt him. Mark Reynolds bopped a homer over the left field fence in the last of the second which gave the Orioles their initial 1-0 lead in the game. There was a brief period after Washington equaled that run in the fifth where you felt as if the bottom was about to fall out. However these aren’t your Daddy’s Orioles! In the last of the inning Nick Johnson was hit by a pitch and then went to third base on Brian Roberts’ single. J.J. Hardy’s double plated Johnson, and the Orioles held a small lead at 2-1.

While you never feel comfortable taking a one-run lead into the later innings, when you have a pitcher that’s dealing with shut-down stuff like Hammel was you don’t worry as much. Furthermore as MASN analyst and hall of famer Jim Palmer says, if you hold a one-run lead then at the very least the opposition has to score two to beat you. Both teams used only one reliever, as Washington’s Ryan Mattheus came on to pitch to the Orioles in the eighth, and Jim Johnson came on for the save in the ninth for the O’s. Johnson did allow the tying run to reach base, however a nabbed a line drive (in self-defense more than anything else) right back to him for the final out.

Again, the Orioles as a team are scuffling at the plate and having a tough time scoring right now. However there are signs of them coming out of that. First off all teams go through these kinds of stretches during seasons. During the previous homestand they were putting huge amounts of runs on the board, so it’s all very cyclical by nature. However I’ve always felt that when a team’s trying to snap out of a drought like this we’ll see them start by trickling a few runs across along with a decent amount of hits. The Birds put eight hits on the board last night, along with a walk and a hit batsman. That equals ten base runners in total; not an ideal number, but again it does show signs of life. As guys start to get on base again eventually the runs will return.

Ultimately, the Orioles did the most important thing that they could in terms of breaking an offensive drought last night: win! Even in not scoring too many runs if you can win a game like that to boost your confidence it does wonders. And again, kudos to the Oriole fans last night. It doesn’t sound particularly endearing to say people did a good thing by showing up, however this is a franchise that’s lost for 14 straight years and now finds itself in the midst of – ahem, dare I say it – a pennant race. Just a note, tonight’s game against Washington will be seen as part of FOX’s weekly Saturday coverage at 7:15 PM. Washington’s play-by-play man Bob Carpenter will slide into the FOX booth and be paired with Tom Verducci. Wei-Yin Chen will get the start for the O’s, and he’ll be paired against Washington’s Edwin Jackson. Chen was beaten around pretty well in a start in DC last month, so he’ll surely be looking to rebound from that against Washington tonight. For whatever regional bragging rights are worth, if the O’s take either one of the next two games (or both) they’ll have won the season series with Washington.