Written by Bruce Smith (VaTech1994)
By Bruce Smith (VaTech1994)
The Baltimore Orioles ended their first road series of the year with an uplifting win against Justin Verlander and the previously undefeated Detroit Tigers. The Tigers had been the only undefeated team in the majors, but the Orioles took care of that with a hard fought 3-1 win. The Orioles were down 1-0 entering the 6th inning, but they scored solo runs in the 6th, 8th, and 9th to secure the win. It was a tense, well-played game on both sides and the good guys came out ahead in the end.
The Orioles record after the first week of the season is 2-4 which leaves them two games out of first place in the competitive AL East.
Chris Tillman got the start for the Orioles. He pitched an outstanding game providing the first quality start of the year for the Orioles. Tillman’s fastball location was outstanding to both sides of the plate with just a few exceptions. The change up was effective and well located. His curveball had a particularly sharp drop today which made getting called strikes a challenge, but it was effective in keeping hitters off balance. Tillman’s cutter was the most effective I’ve ever witnessed it. He used it to tie several hitters in knots including inducing a pitiful swing on strike three from Austin Jackson who has been one of the hottest hitters in the game so far this season.
In the fourth inning Tillman got behind Torii Hunter 2-0 and threw him a high fastball that he backlegged for a home run. It wasn’t a particularly bad pitch, but Hunter is white hot so he didn’t miss it. Hunter hit home runs in all three games of the series and it seemed like he had approximately 1.2 million RBI this series though my memory may be a bit off.
Tillman’s final line was 8.1 IP, 5 hits, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, and the win. He took a major step forward today to becoming not just the number one starter but also a true ace and stopper. I was very impressed that Buck Showalter left him out there in the 9th to face Miguel Cabrera, the best hitter in the game. It was an outstanding performance against a hot hitting team.
Tommy Hunter came in to face Austin Jackson with a man on and one out in the 9th. He threw several excellent sliders and struck him out. He had good stuff and set down the Tigers for his 2nd save of the season.
Overall, the bullpen’s line was 0.2 IP, 0 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 1 strike out.
Justin Verlander had his good stuff today so the hitters had their work cut out for them. Adam Jones hit a ringing double over the head of Austin Jackson in centerfield and Nelson Cruz went to the opposite field for a double to score Jones in the 6th. In the eighth, Nick Markakis dropped the bat head on a curveball and hit a ball down in the right field corner. Despite not being particularly fleet of foot, Nick legged it to third which proved huge when Adam Jones had a great at bat that ended with a long fly ball to left for a sacrifice fly that put the Orioles ahead for good.
Matt Wieters continued to come up dry with runners on base as he ended two different innings today, but he hit a huge opposite home run in the 9th to give the Orioles a two run lead. It was an impressive shot because Comerica is a large park and the wind was blowing in. Ryan Flaherty had a nice walk against Verlander and picked up his first hit of the season in the 9th which we all hope will break him loose.
Steve Lombardozzi made an excellent play on a slow roller up the middle to get Austin Jackson the first time up. Flaherty played a solid shortstop for the 2nd time in the series including a really nice snag on a high throw from Tillman on what should have been a double play ball.
In the 8th inning, the defense showed up in a way that made a huge difference. David Lough made a great play on a flare to left for the first out. Flaherty was going out hard from shortstop and the men crossed paths as Lough went into his slide but the dangerous situation didn’t seem to faze Lough at all. He looks to be every bit as good defensively as advertised. Markakis then chased another flare down and made a super diving backhanded catch for out number two. Tillman was clearly energized and proceeded to blow away Hunter for out number three.
Key Moments In The Game
The eighth inning was full of drama as the Orioles went ahead in the top of the inning and made two great defensive plays in the bottom of the inning.
The season hasn’t started as the team or the fans had hoped, but I see a lot of good things and believe this is just part of the ebb and flow of the season. The starters haven’t been as bad as the results would indicate. The hitters are hitting the ball better than the results would indicate as there have been quite a few hard liners caught but very few bloopers that found their way in. This will even out over time. The defense has been very good. The Orioles started with the defending World Series champion in the Red Sox and the team that played them for the AL pennant in the Tigers so the margin is very small in the best of circumstances. Once we take into account that the Tigers have started the year hot, it isn’t hard to believe that the first week was a bit rough.
J.J. Hardy sat out today with back spasms for the 2nd time in three game though today the spasms were in a different spot. I’m not sure whether to take the movement as a positive or negative, but the issue bears watching.
The Orioles play their fourth day game in a row tomorrow because they will be participating in the Yankees’ home opener in the start of a three game series.
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