Baltimore Orioles: Pitching and homers rule the night
Technically the Baltimore Orioles’ first victory in spring training came yesterday afternoon; the “B squad” got a great effort from Wei-Yin Chen and defeated Tampa. However the main event in a sense was last night at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, when the O’s took on Toronto. The 5-0 victory was a microcosm in a sense – of 2014, that is. The Orioles used power (from Chris Davis) and great pitching to defeat Toronto.
Miguel Gonzalez inked his first start of the spring, and didn’t disappoint during the short time he was in the game. Gonzalez’s line: 2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K. Gonzalez told MASN after the game that he was spending the spring working on his fastball command. If those two innings were any indication, he’s done a decent job thus far.
Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter were strong out of the ‘pen as well, however the guys who really struck me were Darren O’Day and Zach Britton. O’Day struck out the side in the fourth inning, and while Britton fell behind early in the count to his first hitter he retired the side 1-2-3. One thing I noticed about Gonzalez and all of the regulars in the Orioles’ bullpen was that there seemed to be a huge focus on recording strike one. Pitching from a position of power in the count can make a world of difference, and we saw it in action last night.
Manny Machado had a good night as well, going 2-for-3 on the night, with two strong line drive hits to left field. The second of those was in the fifth, and it was later followed up by an opposite field single by Adam Jones (who incidentally drew a walk in his first at-bat). That brought Chris Davis to the plate, and Davis
Courtesy of Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
delivered his first homer of the spring to put the O’s up 3-0. Jonathan Schoop would add his first homer of the spring in the last of the seventh to run the score to 5-0 which of course was the final.
Offensively while this was only one game, we saw the bats break out just a bit – or as much as they can this early in the spring. However the positive sign to me was that not only did a couple of guys have incredibly positive at-bats, but the heart of the order functioned as it was supposed to. One of the big questions coming into camp this year was how would the O’s replace the power they lost when Nelson Cruz went to Seattle. The hope of course has been that Jones hitting third followed by Davis would help to ease the burden of not having Cruz. To say the least, it worked last night.
All Grapefruit League games need to come with the following disclaimer: results (good or bad) should be taken with a grain of salt. And when I say results, I don’t mean wins and losses; those are truly irrelevant. But I’m talking more about within the ebb and flow of games. Yes Jones and Davis looked good back-to-back in the lineup last night. However that was also against Toronto’s travel roster. And the same should be said about Oriole pitching looking strong against Toronto hitters.
But needless to say you’d rather take looking good with a grain of salt as opposed to looking bad. One thing that doesn’t need to be taken with a grain of salt per se is Adam Jones’ first at-bat in which he drew a rare walk. If Jones can improve his OBP by drawing walks and by using Davis as his protection in the lineup, the O’s will be in good shape this year.
The Orioles face Toronto again this afternoon, as they travel to Dunedin, FL and send rule 5 draft pick Mike Wright to the mound. He’ll be opposed by Toronto’s R.A. Dickey. We obviously won’t know for sure until the travel roster is released, but I wouldn’t expect too many Oriole regulars to see action against the knuckleballer Dickey today. But who knows. Game time is set for just after 1 PM.