Going into the most recent series with New York, the Baltimore Orioles had lost five straight games (a streak that would eventually reach six) and were scuffling. At the conclusion of the series the O’s had taken two-of-three from New York and appeared to have righted a few things. I say “appeared” to have righted a few things only because two games a season does not make. However as the Orioles found out last night, one way to ensure that the other side doesn’t come back on you is to bury them early.
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Quality starting pitching doesn’t hurt either, and Jason Hammel won his first game at the yard in 2013. Hammel’s line: 6.2 IP 6 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 K. Hammel also got run support that hasn’t always been there, and right from the get-go at that. Nick Markakis’ solo home run in the last of the first got things started, and that was followed up by an Adam Jones single to center field. That brought Chris Davis to the plate, who’s two-run homer put the Orioles ahead 3-0. The key besides quality starting pitching is that the Orioles jumped on New York early in the game. That set a certain tone to things, and New York was in effect playing from behind all night. When you have these games where your starter is pitching well but you can’t score runs that ultimately puts a lot of pressure on your starting pitcher as the game wears on and at some point he potentially cracks.
One thing I found interesting is that NY manager Joe Girardi lifted starter Hiroki Kuroda in the last of the third with an apparent injury. He had been grazed by a ball earlier in the game, and they later announced that he had a bruised calf. However was Girardi looking for an excuse to change pitchers and to give his reliever more time to warm up? That seemed to be the consensus without anyone actually coming out and saying it. Nevertheless, Kuroda put runners at the corners in the third before departing with the O’s leading 3-1. Matt Wieters sent a homer to center off of reliever Preston Claiborne, and the Birds had a 6-1 lead. Curtis Granderson and David Adams would add a solo homers for New York to close out the scoring in the Orioles’ 6-3 victory.
While Darren O’Day gave up Adams’ solo homer in the ninth, the Orioles bullpen also looked strong. So combine what appeared to be the Jason Hammel of 2012 with the Orioles’ ‘pen of 2012 (the Orioles only used Brian Matusz and O’Day), and you have a pretty decent combination. Many people seemed to think that the season was well on it’s way to being over going into this series and after the Orioles lost game one in dramatic fashion. However as I’ve said so many times, you’ll go through peaks and valleys in 162 games. So at the very least the Birds have received a stay of execution in taking two-of-three from New York. At best they’ve corrected and/or figured out a few things.
Tonight the Birds head north of the border for the first time in 2013 to open up a four-game series with Toronto (and a six-game road trip). They’ll face Brandon Morrow, who was non-decisioned against the Orioles in Toronto’s 6-5 victory on April 24th. However the spotlight will be on Orioles’ starter Kevin Gausman, who will be called up from double-A Bowie and will make his major league debut. As we all know, the O’s drafted Gausman fourth overall out of LSU in last year’s draft. He was 2-4 at Bowie this year, with a 3.11 ERA in eight starts. He’ll be facing a Toronto team that’s starting to heat up; they’ve won five of their last six home games, and rallied to beat Tampa yesterday in ten innings with Jose Bautista driving in all of the team’s runs.
The Gausman move can be analyzed until the cows come home, however the
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fact is that the Orioles are making the move. They feel that Gausman’s ready to come to this level, and they aren’t in the business of keeping guys in the minors for extended periods of time for no apparent reason. My concern would be the fact that if he does struggle and is at some point sent back down, his major league clock will have already started. However that’s a risk that the Orioles have proven they’re willing to take, most recently with Manny Machado last season. Not only does this send a message to the fan base in that the Orioles want to win now, but it also sends a message to the rest of the league, who have been trying to strong arm Gausman away from the O’s for the past year. There wasn’t one trade that was proposed where Gausman’s name didn’t come up. Once he’s thrown a pitch in a game he’ll cease to be a “prospect,” so maybe the rest of the league will stop asking about him! One interesting thing to note, Gausman’s (presumed) second big league start should come next Tuesday in Washington. How many American League pitchers have had to pick up a bat in their second big league start?! Let the Kevin Gausman era in Birdland begin.