Saturday, April 11, 2009

Orioles 5 Rays 4

A little late getting this up (not that anybody gives a crap) but the Baltimore Orioles are now 3-1 thanks to a 5-4 victory last night over the defending AL champion Tampa Bay Rays (still weird to say that). The O's can guarantee a second series win tonight against what figures to be one of the top teams in the division. We've seen the O's get off to good starts before, only to crap the bed come August and September. But so far there is something a bit more encouraging about this team. Right now, the O's top 3 hitters (Brian Roberts, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis) look as solid as any in baseball. Those three guys hit the crap out of the ball again last night, collecting five hits and scoring 4 of the 5 Oriole runs. Melvin Mora, who hit so well last year with runners in scoring position, knocked in 3 RBIs, hopefully picking up where he left off last year.

Now, if you asked me who my two least favorite Orioles were at the beginning of this season I would have told you without hesitation: Mark Hendrickson and Danys Baez. I nearly strained my voice screaming "NOOOOO!!" when the O's signed Hendrickson, a 6'9 lefty who couldn't break a Cheez-It with his fastball. I saw Hendrickson plenty in his days with the Dodgers and wasn't very impressed. Baez, much like Hendrickson, was also with the Dodgers, stunk there, got signed by the Orioles and stunk in 2007 before missing all of last year with arm injuries.

With that said, of course those two guys would look very sharp last night. Hendrickson allowed plenty of baserunners in his 5 1/3 innings pitched (6 hits and two walks) but he pitched himself out of it and only gave up one run, a homer to Evan Longoria. Baez was even more impressive and looks reborn if his first two appearances this year are any indication. He struck out four Rays over his 1 2/3 innings of no-hit ball. He looks like the guy who saved 40 games for the Rays a couple of years ago.

And yet, the O's bullpen made it interesting again. This time, it was the guys who were good last year, Jim Johnson and George Sherrill providing the heart palpitations. Johnson especially looked shaky, giving up a two-run homer to Longoria to turn a 5-1 game into a 5-3 nailbiter. Of course, shaky is Sherrill's business and Flat Breezy was up to his usual tricks, striking out all three Rays he faced but also giving up a homer to Dioneer Navarro. Business as usual, right Georgie?

Other than the bullpen, the only other worry sign for the O's is the inability to stop other teams' running game. The Yankees stole four bases in three games when they were here and Tampa Bay added another one last night. A lot of these steals, the catchers haven't had a chance. The pitchers have to do a much better job of holding guys on.

Small quibbles when you're winning though, and the Orioles are winning out of the gate. Let's see if they can get another one tonight with Jeremy Guthrie on the hill against Jeff Niemann (who?). Until then, if you like an Orioles win, give me a Jai Ho!

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