Capital Effort - Orioles win 6-to-2
Written by Mike Laws
Hammel sharp, bats stay hot in bounce-back Win
Orioles 6, Washington 2
OK, so I may have overreacted yesterday. Probably just one reason, among many, why I’m not a professional athlete — that rare breed for whom unflappability and a quick-erase memory are traits as essential as, say, superior reflexes. In any event, I should’ve remembered what the Showalter-era Orioles apparently never forget: the truth behind the old bromides: that the beauty of baseball is that there’s always tomorrow, and winning is the perfect tonic.
And with that, let’s get on to the bullet points:
- I think we’ve got to start with Jason Hammel, the putative Baltimore ace whose 6-2 record, entering today’s opener with the Nationals, belied some shaky early efforts. As with most of his other starts, the big right-hander would find himself the beneficiary of some big-time run support — the difference being, in this one, that he wouldn’t really need it. Even the run he’d give up in the second (having cruised through the first on a pair of strikeouts, followed by a quick groundout, to get his day’s work under way) wasn’t really Hammel’s fault: He allowed a leadoff single to Adam LaRoche, sure, but responded by ringing Ian Desmond up on three pitches, and then should have had LaRoche caught stealing — Matt Wieters had the Washington first baseman, running for what reason no one can be sure, gunned down by a country mile; LaRoche didn’t even slide, but instead let his final stride to the bag jar the ball out of the waiting glove of Oriole second baseman Yamaico Navarro. After which Tyler Moore doubled into the corner in left, staking the Nats to a pretty much unearned (though, sadly, not for Hammel) 1-0 lead …
- And in the following frame, it looked like it’d get worse before it got better, for Hammel, who surrendered an improbable leadoff double to his counterpart, Washington ace Gio Gonzalez, a double that one-hopped the wall in the left-center field gap. Yeesh. But Hammel wasn’t going down without a fight. The lineup now turned over, he got Denard Span to fly out to center. Stephen Lombardozzi followed with a slow roller into the hole to J.J. Hardy’s right — where the Oriole shortstop wouldn’t have had a play, except Gonzalez took off for third, and Hardy alertly came up firing to Manny Machado, who applied the tag. Hammel retired the side by way of a Ryan Zimmerman pop-out, also to Machado, in foul ground — and then settled down completely, not allowing another National runner until the sixth (which, unfortunately, was a leadoff triple from Span, whom Hammel wouldn’t be able to strand) …
- But by that point the Oriole offense had come through against Gonzalez, who’d courted trouble in the third (yet another throwing error from the yip-ridden Zimmerman didn’t help; nor did a wild pitch), which, while the southpaw worked out of that jam, proved to be the signs of a gathering storm. Chris Davis, leading off the fourth, walked on four consecutive pitches. Wieters spoiled a Gonzalez out-pitch before dumping a 2-2 single into right. A Steve Pearce fly-out to left advanced an aggressive Davis to third. And then Navarro, turning in a tough at-bat in which he, too, fouled off three offerings before working things full, swatted a single to left, plating Davis and knotting this one at 1. And here’s where Hammel came through in a whole different kinda way. Asked to bunt Wieters and Navarro over, Hammel failed on his first two attempts. Uh-oh. Two strikes. Just strike out, Jason; it’s better than grounding meekly into an inevitable double play. Right? Well, only partly. Realizing a bunted third strike was preferable to that scenario, Hammel went for it again, this time laying a good one down and setting the table for Nick Markakis — who laced the first pitch he saw the other way, into left-center, scoring both runners easily. 3-1 …
- And while Hardy would fail to add to the damage after Machado doubled to right-center, the Birds weren’t done with Gonzalez, adding a run in the fifth on Jones’s leadoff double, a subsequent single muscled into left by Davis, and a sac-fly from Wieters (with a tip of the ol’ cap to Jones for an aggressive run on a ball to medium-shallow left-center). The O’s were equally unkind to the Nats hurlers who’d come on in relief of Gio, notching a pair of singles (Davis, Wieters) to lead off their half of the seventh before Navarro (again!) came through with a run-scoring knock of his own, off Craig Stammen; in the eighth it was Henry Rodriguez they’d victimize, with Machado singling and swiping second and Jones bringing the youngster on in with his second hit of the afternoon — the Orioles’ fourteenth hit on the day (a Markakis single in the ninth made it fifteen), none of which were home runs. Who says we’re big fly-reliant?
- And not to say all that insurance wasn’t most welcome, but Hammel wouldn’t need it. The starter stranded a leadoff double in the seventh, a one-out single in the eighth — a frame from which he’d emerge having needed only a relatively easy 107 total pitches, some forty percent of them off-speed or breaking balls, to keep Washington’s touted offense off-balance and at bay. And, unlike a certain ballgame of a day ago — now, gladly, receded into memory — the margin would hold up through the bottom of the ninth, with Darren O’Day providing his usual fine work, retiring the Nats in order. A balanced attack keyed by timely base hits; a starter going deep to spare the bullpen’s weary arms: just what the doctor ordered. 6-2, O’s, is your final.
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