Baltimore Orioles: Jones, defending champs spread their wings
This was supposed to be the year the so-called experts were going to be right in that the Baltimore Orioles, although defending AL East champions, would take a step backwards. Boston and Toronto both were looking better, so there was no way the O’s could compete, right? It’s only April 20th, so that could very well still be the case. However for the time being at least, the Birds are showing their status as the defending division champions.
Mind you, the weekend series in Boston isn’t complete yet, as it’s a four-game set. However with yesterday’s 8-3 victory at “the Fens,” the O’s really gelled as a team and came together to create a big “team victory.” Miguel Gonzalez struggled a bit through the early innings, but was able to toe the line between good and bad fairly well. Gonzalez’s line: 5 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 4 BB, 5 K.
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Gonzalez had the lead before he even took to the mound, when Adam Jones sent a two-run homer deep over the green monster in left field and onto Boston’s Landsdowne St. However Gonzalez struggled in the first inning, throwing over thirty pitches. He had some trouble locating the strike zone, and unfortunately for the O’s he managed to give up the lead. Hanley Ramirez smacked a three-run homer, and Boston held a 3-2 lead after one.
The O’s struggled at first with runners in scorping position, at one point grounding into a second 2-3-2 double-play in as many days. But the defending AL East champions weren’t about to let a three-run homer rain on their parade. New England native Ryan Flaherty hit a line drive homer to center field with two outs one inning later, and suddenly we were tied at three. And that in and of itself really shows you that this is a very typical Buck Showalter-coached Oriole team. They don’t let an in-game setback get them down, they never say die, and they play until the final out.
The O’s loaded the bases in the fifth with Travis Snider coming to the plate, and Snider didn’t disappoint. His infield RBI-single gave the Birds a 4-3 lead, a margin that went up to 5-3 a moment later following Manny Machado‘s sac fly-RBI. The game was briefly delayed in the middle of the fifth as home plate umpire Paul Emmel departed due to an unspecified muscle strain of some sort. It was further delayed when Boston’s David Ortiz was ejected for slamming his bat and helmet on the ground…arguing a called strike two.
Gonzalez gutted his way through five innings, and managed to leave with the lead. Chalk this up as an “in-between” start for Gonzalez, however it’s those starts where you’re not really on or off wherein lies the story of your season. And for good measure, Adam Jones smacked a bases-clearing three-RBI double in the top
Courtesy of Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
of the sixth to put a cap on the scoring and to give the Birds an 8-3 lead – which as I said above translated to an 8-3 victory.
Again, the series isn’t over yet. However the defending champions certainly sent a message to the rest of the division by taking two of the first three games in Boston’s yard. I felt that Saturday’s victory was a “team win,” and this one was as well. Under Showalter the O’s have always been a sum of the parts team, and they’ve shown that and then some this weekend.
This was also the second consecutive game in which the Orioles’ bullpen hasn’t allowed a run, a fact of which reliever Tommy Hunter reminded MASNsports’ Roch Kubatko after the game:
"Two games in a row, so we’ll hopefully keep that streak going and not go back to the other … It was nine games in a row, I guess, or 10? Oh, 10 games. So, yeah, glad I could contribute and Gausman could contribute and we could play baseball. So much fun."
While we’re only two weeks into the season, it’s tough to argue that Adam Jones isn’t playing at a pace worthy of MVP consideration. Again, we’re talking about a very small sample size of games. However Jones is hitting .457 on the year, going 4-for-5 yesterday with five RBI including a two-run homer.
For the second consecutive year, the Orioles will play the visitor in Boston’s traditional Patriot’s Day game. It’s a big day in the city of Boston, with the O’s and BoSox playing at 11 AM at Fenway, and of course the Boston Marathon. And for the record I think that’s a great tradition – the 11 AM game at Fenway, and the marathon on the same day. Wei-Yin Chen will get the start for the Orioles this morning (and wow does it feel strange to say that!), and he’ll be opposed by Boston’s Justin Masterson.
Incidentally if I were the O’s, I’d look at this similar to how NFL teams approach Thursday night games (following a Sunday game). It’s a short week, but on the other end it almost feels like an extra bye week. In this case while it’s a quick turnaround from yesterday to today, on the flip side it almost ends up feeling like an extra day off. Omlettes, anyone?!