Written by Paul Folkemer
The Orioles dropped to 1-4 on the season with a truly pathetic offensive performance, getting shut down by journeyman no-name Dana Eveland in a 3-0 shutout. The slumping Birds continued their lack of clutch hitting-- twice stranding two runners in scoring position-- and never found any hitting rhythm in a lackluster loss. The blackout ruined a valiant effort by David Hernandez, who delivered a quality start in his 2010 debut.
Tonight marked the 2010 debut for David Hernandez, who came out of nowhere in spring training to win the fifth starter’s spot that conventional wisdom had going to Chris Tillman. Hernandez looked like a new pitcher this spring, showing the kind of strikeout prowess that eluded him in the majors last year.
Hernandez got through a scoreless first inning despite allowing a double and a walk, then mowed through a 1-2-3 second. In the third, he had perhaps his most impressive battle of the night-- with runners at the corners, one out, and the dangerous Adam Lind at the plate, Hernandez went tooth and nail with last year’s Silver Slugger DH. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Hernandez struck him out swinging, and Matt Wieters threw out the trailing runner trying to take second base, while the lead runner was stranded at third.
REMEMBER HIM?: Former Orioles farmhand Mike McCoy, who was traded for Juan Castro in 2008, was batting leadoff for the Blue Jays tonight.
Hernandez, though, ran into trouble in the fourth. After striking out the first two batters, David was victimized by the bottom of the lineup. A single and a double put two in scoring position, and the O’s elected to intentionally walk lefty-swinging Travis Snider to bring up the right-handed #9 hitter, Jose Molina. Sounds like a good plan in theory, considering that Molina was hitless entering the game, but a Hernandez fastball came too far inside and plunked Molina in the left arm. That forced home the Jays’ first run. Still, Hernandez limited the damage there by retiring McCoy on a fly to center.
In the sixth, Hernandez again struggled with the bottom of the order. With two outs and a runner at second, he threw three pitches outside to Snider, and then decided to intentionally walk him again. Because that worked out swimmingly last time, huh? Sure enough, Molina again burned the Birds, ripping a single to center field to plate run number two for the Blue Jays. At that point, Molina had reached base all three times on the night. You can’t let the number nine guy beat you. You just can’t.
BALLPARK ENTERTAINMENT WATCH: The popular Hot Dog Race on the Camden Yards scoreboard has been upgraded for 2010. Now, the hot dogs have faces, arms-- and most importantly, legs. So they can actually run around the bases instead of hopping up and down like the previous hot dogs did. Now that’s smart thinking.
Hernandez was finished after the sixth. He delivered a quality start in his first outing of 2010, allowing two runs on six hits in six innings. He racked up five strikeouts and walked four, throwing 98 pitches. “My command was a little off, but I was able to make some big pitches,” Hernandez said. Dave Trembley was impressed with the outing by his young starter. “In the middle innings, he showed command of three pitches. His fastball command was better. We’ll win some games if he pitches like that,” the skipper said. David certainly put his team in a position to win. “That was my goal,” said Hernandez. “Try to get a good quality start and keep the team in the game.”
Unfortunately, the effort went for naught, because the O’s offense put up an absolutely woeful performance. We’ve seen this lineup struggle against quality pitchers like James Shields and Matt Garza, but tonight there was no excuse, as their opponent was Dana Eveland. Who’s Dana Eveland, you ask? EXACTLY! For the record, he’s a journeyman left-handed junkballer who’s now on his fourth major-league team in six years. His fastball tops out at around 88 mph, and he heaves a lot of offspeed slop up there. He is…not impressive. Yet to the Orioles, this guy was the second coming of Christy Mathewson.
Although the Orioles put runners on base in each of the first five innings, they didn’t bring home a single runner. Their best scoring opportunities came in the second and fourth innings. In the former, Matt Wieters laced a two-out single, and Nolan Reimold followed with a double to the gap in right-center. If any Oriole other than Wieters had been running, they would’ve scored on the play. But Wieters isn’t known for his speed, so he was held at third base. The next batter, Ty Wigginton, grounded harmlessly to short.
SIDEBAR: Leadoff man Brian Roberts was out of the lineup with an abdominal strain, but it’s hard to blame his absence for the Orioles’ offensive struggles. His replacement, Julio Lugo, reached base three of four times tonight.
In the fourth, Nick Markakis had an outstanding at-bat, working a 12-pitch leadoff walk. Miguel Tejada followed with an infield single, and again, it looked like the Birds were in business. But Garrett Atkins, in a terrible at-bat, popped out to shallow right and failed to advance any runners. A flyout and a strikeout later, Eveland was out of the inning with no damage done. Another scoring opportunity gone by the wayside.
PERFORMANCE OF NOTE: Kudos to long reliever Jason Berken, who worked 2 2/3 strong innings in his 2010 debut in relief of Hernandez.
The O’s never again threatened Eveland, who retired 13 of the last 15 batters he faced. Embarrassing. He worked 7 1/3 scoreless innings, giving up five hits. “He changed speeds, kept the ball down,” said Trembley. “Tip your cap. He was on his game.”
The Orioles certainly weren’t. Adam Jones (who is 0-for-his-last-16) grounded into a double play against Scott Downs to end the eighth. After the Jays added an insurance run in the ninth on an Adam Lind RBI double, the Orioles put two runners on base against closer Jason Frasor but-- surprise!-- stranded them, as Wieters struck out swinging and Reimold popped to short. With that, the O’s are now a horrid 8-for-46 (.174) with runners in scoring position this year. I’ll go out on a limb and say…that’s not gonna get it done.
JUST THROWING THIS OUT THERE…: The Orioles looked totally lifeless and apathetic tonight. Is it possible that their heart-breaking loss in the home opener-- not to mention their gut-wrenching Opening Night defeat in Tampa-- has affected this team’s psyche? I’d like to give these guys the benefit of the doubt and assume that they have the mental fortitude not to let tough losses affect their subsequent performances, but you never know. …And with that, I’ve found a way to indirectly blame Mike Gonzalez for a game in which he didn’t even pitch! That takes skill, my friends.
Trembley didn’t have a lot to say about this boring defeat. “We haven’t gotten the big hits when we needed them. The bottom line is: win. We’re not doing it. We need to do better.”
Eveland got the win, Hernandez the loss, and Frasor his third save. Orioles lose, 3-0.ESPN Box Score
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