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  • Apr
    04

    In a word, resilience 4/4

    Written by Mike Laws

     

     

    Davis remains one-man wrecking machine; Birds fly out of Tampa with series win
    Orioles 6, Rays 3

     

    The 2013 Baltimore Orioles apparently really hate giving up leads. For the third consecutive game they rushed out of the gates to post an early crooked number; for the third straight game they relinquished that lead; for the third straight game they reclaimed it immediately, in the next half-inning. And for the third straight game Chris Davis — well, we’ll get to it. All in due time.

     

    On to the bullet points!

     

    • Right, Chris Davis. It’s all about Chris Davis, at the moment. Dude is habanero-hot. How do you even pitch to him? Tampa Bay starter Roberto Hernandez (or, as I call him, The Pitcher Formerly Known As Fausto Carmona) actually appeared to fool Davis with a changeup, during Davis’s first at-bat, in the then-scoreless top of the second; Davis’s swing wound up looking more like a tennis stroke, almost a one-hand backhand. Well, except the ball off the bat sounded like a gunshot and never came back, staking the Orioles to another early lead, 2-0.

     

    • … Which, again just like yesterday, eased whatever early concerns O’s fans might have had about their starter, in this case Miguel Gonzalez, he of those unflappable, masterful starts down the stretch last season. Gonzalez had kind of a head-scratcher of an outing: He negotiated trouble with his command early (maybe he was getting squeezed by home-plate ump Jim Reynolds, maybe he was nibbling), getting some help from his defense (notably, Manny Machado’s 5-to-3 maybe-he-tagged-him-maybe-not fielder’s-choice double play) en route to fine one-two-three bottom halves of the third and fourth. With four complete he’d yet to give up a hit, and no Rays hitter had hit a ball hard all day. And yet, at the exact moment he’d appeared to settle into his groove, it all came undone, and all with base hits right back up the middle. Evan Longoria started it, followed by Yunel Escobar (whose bouncer actually hit Gonzalez on the leg), James Loney (whom former NHL play-by-play guy Gary Thorne, by the way, consistently misidentifies as former Penguin Troy Loney) and Jose Molina. When it was all said and done the Rays had tied it, 2-2, after five …

     

    • ... giving the Birds their chance to show off that resilience. With one out, Nick Markakis drew a walk. Adam Jones singled to right. And then Davis — who else? — went with a pitch against the Tampa shift, absolutely smoking a low line drive over short, hitting the thing so hard it’d split the outfield defense and roll all the way to the wall, plating both Markakis and Jones easily. 4-2, Orioles. At this moment in time, Chris Davis had gone 7 for his last 7 and driven in 11 of the team’s last 14 runs.

     

    • … And at this point we were probably all wondering how the bullpen would fare. Gonzalez cruised through the sixth and retired Longoria to start the seventh before allowing a hit to Shelley Duncan, at which point he was lifted in favor of sublime submariner Darren O’Day — who, like the starter, enjoyed some friendly help from his 20-year-old third baseman. With two out, Machado leapt up and to his right to make a ridiculous full-extension backhand snare of a Loney liner that almost assuredly would’ve gone for extra bases and pushed across a run. Instead, thanks to Manny, things remained at 4-2.

     

    • … Enter J.J. Hardy. (Yes, you read that right.) After Chris Davis finally failed to reach base — Rays fans cheered his comebacker louder than just about anything else all afternoon — Matt Wieters deposited a single into short right, keeping the eighth alive for the Oriole shortstop. Hardy, 1 for his previous 12 to start the season, jumped all over a belt-high Cesar Ramos fastball that caught a bit too much of the plate, sending it out of the Trop to left. Call it Opposite Inning. 6-2 Birds.

     

    • … But still, of course, meanwhile, we’re probably all wondering about the bullpen. Brian Matusz looked terrific in his first inning of work, setting the Rays down in order by way of a pair of groundouts and a pop-up — but then quickly proved he’s not immune to the early troubles plaguing the bullpen this season. Up 1-and-2 on the first batter he faced in the ninth, Matusz plunked him with a ball in the dirt; he then gave up a single to Ben Zobrist, rousting the Tampa faithful and earning himself a premature shower …

     

    • … at which point Jim Johnson came on — and surrendered a deep fly ball to left-center off the bat of Longoria. Jones leapt, at the wall, but couldn’t reel it in; McLouth, backing the center fielder up, couldn’t find it; the ball had hit the top of the wall and caromed back toward center. It looked like a disaster, the kind of thing where the Rays would just run all day — except only one of them did. Longoria passed Zobrist on his way to second (at least, according to the umpire he did) and was called out. One run scored on the play, and Zobrist still wound up on third, but the controversial call had stopped the Tampa momentum dead in its tracks. Johnson did allow a walk to Escobar, permitting the potential tying run to come to the plate, but induced a pair of pop-outs to finish this one off. 6-3, Orioles, is your final.

     

     

    AND ANOTHER THING: Batting ahead of big Davis, Adam Jones is without a doubt the unsung hero of the O’s so far. In the two Baltimore wins on the year, he’s 6 for 10 with four runs scored. More importantly, his approach has been commendable: He’s going with what he’s given by opposing pitchers, not trying to do too much, using all parts of the field. In other words, he’s setting the table for Davis. Davis gotta eat!

     

    OH RIGHT AND … Brian, we hardly knew ye. Though he stole second successfully in the Oriole ninth, Roberts pulled up grimacing, favoring his right knee. Early word is he felt a pop somewhere in the lower hamstring area, as he propelled himself into his slide. Another of this year’s early under-the-radar heroes, Roberts was 5 for 12. (That sound you hear? That’s all of Baltimore setting down its glass, turning to the next guy at the bar and saying dryly, “That didn’t take long.”) 


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