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  • May

    Bucking the Trend: Orioles Win 8-to-4

    Written by Mike Laws

    Bucking the trend

    Hammel settles in, offense comes through to take series in Anaheim

    Orioles 8, L.A. Angels 4

    Sunday baseball, it goes without saying, hasn’t been too kind to the 2013 Baltimore Orioles. Coming into today’s series-/West Coast road trip-ending date with the Angels, the Birds were 0-4 on the Lord’s Day (having fallen, most recently, in that ten-inning debacle in Oakland). Maybe they’re taking that whole “day of rest” thing too literally …

    Anyway, no time like the present to reverse the trend, right? And hey, while they’re at it, why not put an end to another alarming tendency that’s reared its homely head of late: the inability to convert opportunities with runners in scoring position?

    Sounds like a capital idea to me. Maestro, if you please: the bullet points!

    • When Manny Machado fouled out and Nick Markakis grounded out in the first, following a leadoff double off the bat of Nate McLouth, the prospects of staking starter Jason Hammel to an early lead looked suddenly grim. After all, all the recent evidence (read: yesterday’s game) pointed to an inability to cash in on runners who’d reached scoring position with fewer than two out. Thankfully, Adam Jones was here to say: Enough’s enough. Down in a 1-2 hole against Angels starter/simply massive human being Jerome Williams, Jones nonetheless torched a double over the head of left fielder J.B. Shuck. 1-0, Orioles …


    • But then the Angels got themselves into the business of picking up two-out RBIs. And cousin, business was a-boomin’. Hammel, who’d struck out Erick Aybar to get his afternoon under way, had permitted an infield single and subsequent steal of second to Mike Trout, then walked Josh Hamilton, but rang up Mike Trumbo for the second out of the frame. OK, O’s fans, exhale; the ace-man’s got this, doesn’t he? Well, no. Alberto Callaspo took the first pitch he saw from Hammel into center, scoring Trout; Howie Kendrick and Hank Conger followed up with singles of their own — both in two-strike counts — plating Hamilton and Callaspo, respectively. Hammel then lost Chris Iannetta after jumping out ahead 1-and-2, before finally retiring the Angels by way of a swinging Shuck strikeout. So the good news was that he’d struck out the side. The bad news was that after one inning of play, the Angels led 3-1 — and Hammel had already thrown thirty-eight pitches.
    • Did I mention that none of that should’ve happened? Trout was clearly out at second on his quote-unquote stolen base; it was actually weird that second-base ump Manny Gonzalez (who’d wind up behind home plate following a possible concussion sustained by the original man in black) called Trout safe, being as Matt Wieters’s relay beat the Angel runner, and the ball being there is typically the difference in a bang-bang tag-out play, as far as umpires are concerned. Maybe Gonzalez is one of those Trout-should’ve-been-MVP people. Anyway, notwithstanding a homer in the fourth (from, who else, Trout), Hammel was otherwise just fine, in this one: After that horrific first inning, he’d need just ten pitches, in the second, setting the side down in order; and while he’d flirt with trouble in the third, loading the bases (a pair of singles, another Iannetta base-on-balls), he’d emerge unscathed after Shuck flied out to left. That Hammel finished his day with a knee-buckling curve to ring up Trout with the then-potential tie run on second was, in a way, poetic justice.
    • How the O’s had built themselves a 5-4 lead, by that point, was pretty much just how they’d scored the bulk of their runs the day before. That is to say: bleacher-creatures. Long balls. You know, the ones chicks dig, and all that. The dreamy J.J. Hardy had knotted the game at three with his two-run shot in the fourth; after Trout gave his team a 4-3 advantage, Machado turned on a fastball in the fifth, drilling his two-run dinger into the Oriole bullpen (where Pedro Strop, perhaps auditioning for a different role with the club, caught it in his hat). Both Hardy’s and Machado’s drive had cashed in on a walk issued by Williams (to Jones, in the case of the former; McLouth, for the latter). 5-4, O’s …
    • … And speaking of Strop … after Brian Matusz came on in relief of Hammel and did his job with aplomb, fanning Hamilton, the shall we say mercurial Dominican righty got the nod from Buck Showalter — and promptly walked Trumbo, his first hitter. Then balked, moving Trumbo over to second. Oh, boy. Another Stropian meltdown? Nope! Strop got Callaspo to chop a ball right back to him — and alertly turned to check on Trumbo, who was caught off second, and whom Strop hung up in a rundown that, nonetheless, permitted Callaspo to scoot in to second. OK, so that was all right, but we’ve still got that potential tie run in scoring position, and Strop hasn’t looked great, or anything. What’s it to be? As it turned out, Kendrick bounced to third, where a fine pickup by Machado gave way to a rushed throw that wound up in the dirt — but which Chris Davis picked on the short-hop, ending the threat. Phew. Oriole Nation, go ahead and mop your collective brow.
    • As it happened, Strop’s tightrope act presaged a similar effort from Troy Patton, who induced a groundball double play but accomplished not much else of note — he walked two and surrendered a double to Aybar, and had to be lifted, in the eighth, in favor of Darren O’Day, who recorded that inning’s final out, stranding the inherited runners and keeping the Angels from posting any other runs. O’Day would go on to work around a Hamilton double, in the ninth, and finish the game …
    • Which by that point had become something of a laugher. Still up just the one, at 5-4, in their half of the eighth, Machado started things off by walking on four pitches; he’d take second on an errant pickoff attempt by L.A. reliever Dane De La Rosa (whose incongruous name still makes me chuckle a little every time, but I digress). A Markakis groundout moved Machado to third with one out, but Jones, against a pulled-in infield, tapped out to second on a check swing, and it looked like the Birds, once again, would fail to take advantage of an advantageous situation. But not so! Davis muscled a single into center, plating Machado. Finally! But the O’s weren’t done yet. Wieters singled, bouncing De La Rosa from the ballgame. Hardy singled to greet Garrett Richards — like Wieters, also in a two-strike count. And then, miracle of miracles, Ryan Flaherty slapped a single the other way to left. On a breaking ball. That made four consecutive two-out singles, and three straight with two strikes. Both Davis and Wieters came in to score on Flaherty’s timely pickup, and this one was now 8-4. A couple of clutch innings sandwiching a pair of two-run shots — now that’s Sunday baseball. O’s take three of four in Anaheim, seven of eleven on the road trip, and come back to Baltimore with Uncle Mo firmly in tow. Enjoy that actual day of rest, fellas. 

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