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  • Apr

    Gotta Love that Peaceful Sweepy Feelin' - Hangout Night

    Written by Mike Laws

    Beautiful day for a ballgame …

    ... let’s win two


    GAME ONE: L.A. Dodgers 5, Orioles 7


    Whew. There was a minute there where this one looked for all the world like it was headed toward extra innings. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to even more baseball today, but that’s maybe kind of a selfish or at least shortsighted perspective; double-headers are already notoriously difficult to schedule around — all the more so if the games require double digits to settle. Heck, in the minors they only play seven innings per end, so as to avert some of the knock-on effects on the pitching staff (and also because, well, who cares). So it was a welcome development indeed when the Orioles completed an inspired effort, digging themselves out of an early 4-0 hole and breaking a late-inning tie — all without having to bat in their half of the ninth. Get it done and get out, is my motto, where the first halves of these all-day affairs are concerned.


    The bullet points!


    • Of course, the principal concern, early on in this one, was that Jason Hammel sure didn’t look like he was gonna get deep into the ballgame. A three-run Andre Ethier blast in the first, a single and a double and a sac-fly in the second — by the time of his trip out to the mound for the L.A. third, Hammel had surrendered four runs on five hits, walking one, had been in trouble pretty much consistently in terms of runners on and outs recorded, and had thrown fifty-one pitches. As an Oriole fan, you started to envision all sorts of ghastly scenarios involving beleaguered bullpens; you started to wonder about the odds of a Chris Davis repeat performance, on the hill. And then something miraculous happened. Hammel settled down, and he stayed settled. He delivered nine pitches in that third inning, a groundout and a pair of fly balls, one-two-three. In the fourth he again threw nine baseballs, walking the leadoff man but eventually bouncing Arthur Digby Justin Sellers into an inning-ending double play. Hammel flirted with trouble in the fifth — though maybe flirted’s too weak; maybe you could say he took trouble up to Lookout Point in his dad’s Rambler — following a one-out double by conceding a Matt Kemp infield single, but dug deep and struck out the fearsome Adrian Gonzalez on the fourth 3-and-2 pitch of that at-bat, then emerged entirely unscathed with another huge strikeout, this time with the bases loaded. For his curtain call Hammel set the side down in order again in the sixth, his eleven deliveries in that frame putting him at 113 for the afternoon. 



    • That the Orioles were back in the game, by that point, was a circumstance we can attribute to their torrid love affair with the long ball. Unwilling to let a rainout dilute any of the momentum accrued in Thursday’s homer-happy walk-off win against the Tampa Bay Rays, the O’s touched up Dodger starter and South Korean expat Hyun-Jin Ryu (or, if you like, Ryu Hyun-Jin; I blame Ichiro for unnecessarily complicating this whole “for the love of God, which is the surname?!” thing) for a pair of long balls: J.J. Hardy’s two-run shot in the Oriole second, Nolan Reimold’s two-out solo job in the fourth …


    • Of course, whether the Birds would be able to come all the way back remained an open question. In each of his remarkably/weirdly consistent three prior starts, Ryu had lasted either six or six and one-third innings and yielded no more than three runs. And so following an eight-pitch, one-two-three fifth, the tension mounted. In the sixth it broke. Matt Wieters singled to lead things off. Davis then doubled into the gap between left and center (ably using all parts of the field, it should be noted). Hardy followed with a first-ball-hitting sac-fly to deep right, tying the game and advancing Davis to third. And Steve Pearce roped a single to left, plating Davis. Who says this team squanders big-inning chances?


    • Ah, but then Pedro Strop came on. A walk and a single and a wild pitch and this one was knotted back up. Worse still, the Orioles appeared suddenly befuddled, falling quietly in their half of the seventh to Curaçaoan righty Kenley Jansen (and yes, I invoked the demonym strictly so I could work a cédille into this article). Fortuitously, Jansen was only asked to face a solitary Oriole batsman, in the eighth, making way for a match-up lefty to face Davis. The southpaw in question, Paco Rodriguez, actually got up 0-2 on Davis, dropping a pair of breaking pitches. But, um, like, as IF. Davis got extended, to say the least, on the following offering, absolutely smashing a liner off the top of the wall in very-deep right-center. He missed the home run by about a foot and a half. I guess that’s what Davis calls “shortening his swing” or “protecting the plate with two strikes.” Hell, I’ll take it …


    • … and so would the rest of the club. After an unintentional-intentional walk issued by right-hander Ronald Belisario, on in relief of Rodriguez, Dodger backstop (and former Oriole) Ramon Hernandez let one get away, permitting Davis and Hardy to advance to third and second, respectively. Which also meant that Belisario was asked to issue an actual intentional walk, this time to Nate McLouth. And it’s got to be bad karma to ask a reliever to come in and walk people, right? I mean, clearly the baseball gods must frown on that sort of thing. Because Reimold again delivered, watching a pair of pitches then inside-outing an inner-half fastball down the right-field line, good for a pair of runs. And all it took from there was a nothing-to-see-here-folks appearance by Jim Johnson, and Game One was in the books.



    BLAST THEE, ACCURSED FATE! And just when Reimold’s heating up, of course something happens where he has to be removed from the ballgame. Following his (as it turned out) game-winning double in the eighth, the left fielder appeared to have tweaked something (educated guess would be the hamstring), and had to be pulled in favor of pinch runner Chris Dickerson. So fickle, those baseball gods.


    Y’ALL COME BACK NOW, Y’HEAR? For more gripping professional-baseball commentary, click refresh on your browsers in, oh, about five hours, where a sports-overloaded Mike Laws (whose similarly beloved Penguins presently await on DVR) will, with any luck, be jammin’ with the printed word following another Oriole win.



    … and, we’re back! GAME TWO: L.A. Dodgers 1, Orioles 6


    Ah, heck. It’s been a long day. Let’s just get right to the bullet points, no?


    • I guess you could say that the “night” side of this day/night double-header was a pitchers’ duel, but in actual point of fact it felt like a waiting game, to see who’d crack first: Wei-Yin Chen or Dodger starter (and familiar foe) Josh Beckett. Both had conceded an early run — Chen on a first-inning sac-fly, Beckett on a mistake to Chris Davis that the big man took for a cool 450 feet or so to dead center — and both struggled with control (Beckett issued three passes, Chen four, plus the latter hit a batter, and yes, that rhymed), but despite only one true one-two-three inning between them (Beckett, in the first) — and despite Beckett courting trouble in the third, loading the bases with two down before getting Adam Jones to ground out — through four and a half played, neither starter had fallen prey to the dread Big Inning …


    • But look, in a stare-down between the imperturbable, enigmatic lefty and a guy who looks like he’s on a diet consisting strictly and entirely of Dodger Dogs, I’m gonna take the former. And indeed, Beckett was the first to blink, issuing a one-out walk to the ungodly-patient Nate McLouth in the Oriole fifth, then watching helplessly as McLouth stole second and scooted on over to third on the errant throw down, none of which actually wound up mattering much after Manny Machado (remember the name, son) doubled into the left-field corner, and was in turn doubled in by Jones (who was DHing for the back end of the double header) …


    • … And following Chen’s strongest inning of work all night long — he allowed a one-out single to our old pal Jerry Hairston Jr. in the sixth, then induced a 6-3 double play, needing only nine pitches to retire the side — the offense finally provided the poor guy with some real-deal run support. And fittingly, just as in that ultimately fruitless third, it all happened with two down. A pair of singles, from Ryan Flaherty and Nate McLouth, set the stage for Machado, who had pretty much the ideal at-bat against Beckett (who didn’t know at the time that this was to be the last hitter he’d face tonight): Machado took a strike, watched a couple of balls miss the plate wide, fouled one off, then squared up on a cutter that spun back out from under Machado’s hands over the plate, smacking it on a line into the third row in left. 6-1, O’s …


    • … And that’s how this one would stay, owing to some admittedly solid relief work by both bullpens. Looking at it through slightly oranger-tinted glasses, I’ll say you have to give it up for Tommy Hunter, who scattered three singles and allowed one walk while striking out a pair, over his three innings of work — which, incidentally, were the final three innings of this ballgame, which qualified Hunter for the rare nine-out, score-doesn’t-matter type save. Good for him. Sparing the spare arms is always an important objective, in a double-header, but it’s nice to get some of that official-scoring MLB love sometimes, too.



    YEEEEEEESH, JOSH: OK, work with me here. When I say Josh Beckett works so unbelievably slowly, especially with runners aboard, my God, you say: Howwww? Slowwww? IS HE? and then I’ll say things like So slow he makes El Duque look like a hummingbird! and So slow even the Molinas are getting impatient! and So slow I’m tempted to make a bad Waiting for Godot pun, you know, given his name and all and … yeah, OK, I think you get the idea. It’s possible Your Faithful Reporter might be getting a little punchy, at this point. So dare I say, here’s to a good night’s … sweep? Don’t forget to tip your bartenders.


    Box Score One



    Box Score Two

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