• Jun

    Innings one through nine!

    After a 40-minute rain delay Adam Loewen took the mound. In the first inning, he got ahead of two of the first three hitters 0-2 -- getting both to fly out to right field but mixed in a four-pitch walk to Alex Rios before serving up a line drive to single to center to Troy Glaus which sent Rios to third after Cory Patterson briefly bobbled the ball. He then got out of the innings by getting Shea Hillenbrand to dribble out to Tejada to end the inning.


    The Orioles made things a little easier in their half of the inning by making three outs on seven Roy Halladay pitches highlighted by Brian Roberts grounding out to second on the first pitch of the game by the Blue Jays hurler. Let’s hope this doesn’t become a trend.


    After getting Bengie Molina to ground out to second, Toronto got back to back singles to center field putting men on first and second to start off the second inning. After getting behind Edgar Alfonzo, Loewen got him to fly out to fairly deep right field with Lyle Overbay tagging up and going to third despite a strong throw from right fielder Nick Markakis. Loewen then got behind leadoff hitter Reed Johnson 2-0 before he hit a ball in the hole between third and short, deflecting off Melvin Mora’s glove for a RBI single.  Rios then wasted no time driving the ball into left center to make it 2-0 Toronto.


    Make no mistake, Loewen is not fooling the Blue jays so far as they have five hits through an inning and two-third. After pitching coach Leo Mazzone came out for a little talk, Loewen got behind Vernon Wells 3-1, before throwing a great changeup for a swinging strike. A 3-1 change up with a struggling pitcher? Either Hernandez is a genius or a crazy gambler, but either way, Wells would ground out to Tejada on the next pitch to end the threat.


    Ramon Hernandez leads off the second and battles Halladay for seven pitches – as many as the first three hitters saw in the first inning – before grounding out to first for out number one. Even when Hernandez gets out he does something to help the team. What a great acquisition. Kevin Millar quickly gets behind 0-2 before battling for two more pitches until he ground out back to Holliday. At least he made him a work a bit. Patterson then hits a ball up the middle on the first pitch he sees and gets thrown out by shortstop Aaron Hill on an extremely close play.


    New first base coach Rick Dempsey jumps up in the air in disbelief and argues a bit before Perlozzo comes out an has a little chat with the first base ump. Replays show it was a bang-bang call that could have gone either way.


    Into the third, Loewen gets Troy Glaus to ground out to Mora to start the inning. He then gets ahead of Hillenbrand 1-2 before he nails a clean base hit to left field on a hanging curve. Loewen then comes back and gets Bengie Molina to ground into the inning ending 6-4-3 double play.


    Between the inning, it was announced that Dave Schmidt will report to Ottawa as Larry McCall’s replacement. Schmidt was going to be the Aberdeen pitching coach like he was last year. He was credited with helping Orioles prospect Radhames Liz with his offspeed stuff last year.

    On to the top of third and hot hitting Javy Lopez collects the Orioles first hit when he singles sharply to center. After a failed bunt attempt, Brandon Fahey – who happens to be playing left field – grounds to short forcing Lopez out at second for out number one. This brings up Nick Markakis batting just .219 through his first 151 major league at bats. Halladay gets Markakis to fly weakly to right for out number two.


    This brings up the top of order and after watching the first pitch, Roberts singles down the left field line to put runners on 1st and second with two outs and Mora up. Halladay gets ahead of Mora with a 92 MPH fastball called a strike before throwing a curve for a ball. Mora then takes a 91 MPH fastball and slices it to right field scoring Fahey with the O’s first run. Nice piece of hitting there. Roberts alertly heads to third on the throw home.


    With the tie run on third, Miguel Tejada fouls away the first pitch before taking called curveball for strike two. Down 0-2, Tejada takes a ball inside as Mora steals second base uncontested. Tejada then hits a ball between third and short and despite being slowed by a bum leg, he legs out the infield single scoring Roberts and extending his hitting streak to 12-games.


    With the go ahead run on third, Hernandez grounds out to second to end the inning,


    It’s a whole new ball game folks, 2-2.


    Onto fourth inning where Adam Loewen got his first strike out of the night King Aaron Hill on a 3-2 pitch. Even better, Hernandez threw out Overbay despite throwing behind Tejada on the throw.  Tejeda twisted his back and dove to tag the runner to complete the strik’em out throw’em out double play. Edgar Alfonzo then hit the ball to Mora who made a great diving stop before overthrowing 1st baseman Kevin Millar, giving Alfonzo an infield single. WTOP’s Craig Heist made a good comment on this, “Like Cal Ripken SR, used to say -- never make half a great play.” Reed Johnson then smashes a drive to right field but Markakis makes a great running catch for out number three. That’s the second good running outfield play by Markakis this game.


    Millar grounds out to start the bottom half of the fourth before Patterson lays down a perfect bunt down the 1st base line. Halladay fields it, but in his hurry he throws the ball away allowing Patterson to end up on third with one out. Unfortunately, Halladay makes quick work of Javy Lopez – striking him out on three pitches – for out number two. With two down, Fahey lines the ball to left where Johnson is playing extremely shallow. Johnson makes a nice diving catch to end the threat. End of four, 2-2.


    Heading into the 5th inning -- Loewen has thrown 70 pitches and seems to be settling in a bit. Loewen get Rios to fly out to right for out number one. That’s no small feat because Rios looks a lot like a young star who has arrived. Loewen then gets Vernon Wells to fly out to right field as well. That’s Loewen’s sixth flyout to right – all by right-handed hitters. Loewen finishes off his best inning of the night by striking out Troy Glaus on a  1-2 curveball. That was Loewen quickest inning of the night and it was against the heart of the Blue Jays order. Quite impressive if you ask me.


    Markakis leads off the O’s half of the fifth with a nice line drive opposite field single left center on a 93 MPH fastball. The best part of that at bat was the fact Markakis put good wood on the ball. Remember folks, he has a history of catching up to a new league in the second half of seasons and these types of at bats against a quality major league pitcher should give you hope that maybe he’s starting to come around.


    Wow, now this might be the pivotal moment of the game. Brian Roberst got behind 1-2 then battled back to 3-2 before fouling off several pitches. With Markakis running, Roberts smacks a line drive to left center moving Markakis to third. Unfortunately, Roberts then gets thrown out trying to steal when he overslides second base after beating the throw.


    Mora though gets Markakis in when he hits a sacrifice fly to deep center to make it 3-2 Orioles. Tejada strikes out to end the innings but the O’s are up and Loewen is coming on for the sixth inning after having his best inning of the game. He’s now ahead and gunning for his first major league win. Due up, Hillenbrand-Molina-Overbay.


    Inning Six


    Loewen starts off the inning by making a nice fielding play, going to his right before turning and throwing out Hillenbrand to start the inning. Molina then singles sharply to left past a diving Mora which gets Todd Williams up in the pen. Overbay then collects his third hit of the night by singling opposite field into left between Tejada and Mora. This brings up Hill who Loewen struck out for his first strikeout of the game back in the fourth. It was a different result this time with hill ripping a single into left field to load the bases. Three straight singles brings in Perlozzo who does the right thing by bringing in ground ball specialist Todd Williams to face the right-handed Alfonzo. However, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons does the right countermove and brings in switch-hitting Frank Catalanotto. Crap, you know you have a strong team when you can brings Catalanotto off the bench in a key situation.


    Williams runs the count 1-1 before Catalanotto sends a hard bouncer toward first base that goes off Millar’s mitt. The official ruling was a base hit but a good first baseman comes up with that ball and at least gets a force at second. Instead, it’s a tie ballgame, loaded bases with one out and Reed Johnson up. Johnson then serves a ball into right field for a single to make it 4-3 and still only one out. Williams certainly continues to struggle this year and doesn’t even seem to be able to get those ground balls he needs. Of course just as I say that he strikes out Rios for the second out and now has a chance to minimize the damage if he can get Wells out.  Wells runs the count to 3-2. So, full count, loaded bases, two outs ---- Ball four!! He walks in a run, 5-3 Blue Jays. Boy, Williams’ inherited runners percentage just went down as he has now allowed all three of Loewen’s runners to score.


    Loewen will end up with numbers tonight that look pretty bad, allowing five runs in five innings of work, but in reality, he can thank Williams’ poor relief effort for those numbers more than his pitching. He deserved a better fate.


    Bottom of the sixth, and Ramon Hernandez grounds out for out number one. Millar then sends a sky high pop up on the infield bringing the entire infield in towards the ball. Luckily for the Orioles no one really takes charge and it ends up going off third baseman Troy Glaus glove for an error. Patterson then lines a single to right to put men on 1st and second with one out and the orioles have something cooking again. This brings up Javy who struck out on three pitches his last at bat. Lopez then scorches a liner to second where new second baseman Luis Figueroa was unable to handle it for an error, loading the bases. Tough error there. Fahey then plates a run when he hits a ball down the line where Overbay gets the force at second, but there was no play on the hustling Fahey.


    With it 5-4, Markakis comes up with the tying run on third and go ahead run on first. Unfortunately, on a 2-1 pitch, Markakis hits a ball up the middle, but Halladay flags it down and ends the threat. Toronto up, 5-4 heading into the 7th with Sendy Rleal onto pitch for the ineffective Todd Williams.


    Rleal comes on a gets Hillenbrand to ground out to second on a nice change up. Maybe he should start coming into those close games instead of Williams. Molina then quickly pops out to second before Overbay flies out to deep left to end a quick inning. Nice job by Rleal.


    Francisco Rosario made quick work of the O’s in the bottom of the seventh getting them 1-2-3, which would’ve been so bad had it not been the top of the order – Roberts-Mora-Tejada.


    Kurt Birkins is on for the O’s in the eighth. Birkins, who we so undervalued by making him the 35th best prospect at the end of last year, has been lights out this year in relief. Birkins gets the first two batters on ground outs (back to the mound and second base) before striking out Reed Johnson to end the eighth. Birkins continues to be one of the more pleasant surprises this year.


    Hernandez greets Rosario in the bottom half of the eighth with a leadoff line drive double to left center. That ball was absolutely smoked by Ramon. Then, a freak play happened. On a 2-1 pitch, Rosario broke Millar’s bat on a pitch but barrel of the bat somehow smacked the home plate umpire, knocking him woozy. Rosario then filled the count with a ball before Millar fouled off two pitches. Millar then took ball four to put men on first and second with no outs and ended the night for Rosario.


    Gibbons makes the right move by the book bringing in left-hander Scott Schoeneweis to face Cory Patterson. Patterson has already bunted tonight for a hit so this would be a great place to try another one. With his speed, he could easily load the bases. With Hernandez taking a small lead, Patterson bunts the ball right back to the pitcher who gets Hernandez at third easily. Wonder why you don’t let Patterson drag one here instead of pure sacrificing? Patterson seems to do things better naturally then when he has to think to hard about it. That’s not to say anything about Patterson’s intelligence; it’s just an observation.


    With the one out and Javy up, Gibbons goes back to the bullpen for Justin Speier. Perlozzo counters by pinch running for Millar at second base with Ed Rogers. Speier gets ahead of Lopez quickly 0-2 before Lopez evens it up at 2-2.  Lopez reaches out and lines a single to right field and third base coach Tom Treblehorn wisely stops Rogers at third as Rios fires a strike to the cut off man. Had Rogers tried to score he would have been out by at least 15 feet.


    Loaded bases, one out and Fahey up to the bat. O’s down by one in the bottom of the eighth. Speier again gets ahead 0-2, but then hits Fahey on the foot with a slider to tie the game. Wow. Speier seems to be doing his best Williams impression here.  Game on the line for Markakis who quickly digs himself in a hole 0-2 – the third straight batter Speier got that count on – before Markakis takes a ball then grounds to the drawn in second baseman who easily gets the force out at home for out number two.


    Now Brian Roberts chance to get the O’s ahead. On 2-1 Roberts smashes a long drive, but it goes foul.  On 2-2, Roberts fouls off a 94 MPH fastball to keep the count even. With the crowd on it’s feet and cheering, Roberts watches a slider low to load the count.


    Three balls, two strikes, two outs, loaded bases, tie game… Roberts lifts a long fly ball down the left field line…but it heads foul. Do it again. Crowd on it’s feet, clapping, cheering, this is what baseball is all about.. Roberts takes…… ball four. A high 95 MPH fastball, O’s up 6-5!!!! Crowd goes wild!!!!


    This brings Gibbons out and apparently he’s seen enough of Speier, who he allowed to face three straight left-handed batters, so he replaces him with left-hander Scott Downs to face Mora. Strange!!!


    Downs starts Mora off with a fastball down and in for ball one. Mora swings through a 84 MPH change for strike one on the next pitch. On 1-1, Mora takes a low and inside pitch but the ump rings up strike two. On 1-2 Mora lines a pitch down the left field line foul. Mora seems to be on this guys fastball. Apparently Downs senses that too and throws a curveball but it hits the dirt and gets away from Molina scoring Fahey from third. O’s up 7-5. Mora then bounces out to the second baseman for the last out but the O’s have the lead and Chris Ray is coming in.


    Here we go, into the ninth. Ray on, Conine in to play first base for Millar and Matos in left for Fahey. Ray gets Rios to pop out to second for out number one. Ray seems to have his “A” stuff since his fastball is sitting at 98 MPH tonight. He gets Wells down 1-2 before Wells fouls off several pitches including 98 MPH fastballs and 89 MPH sliders. Ray throws a split finger in the dirt for ball two before Wells lofts a fly ball down the right field line. Markakis has long way to go but again, makes a nice running catch for out number two.

    Troy Glaus up and Ray quickly evens the count at 1-1 after missing on a slider with his first pitch. Glaus fouls off another pitch to make 1-2. Ray pitches… high, ball two on a slider. Ray looks in, delivers….Fastball… Swing…miss… Strike out, game over. O’s win.


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Tony Pente

Tony has owned and operated Orioles Hangout since 1996 and is well known for his knowledge of the Baltimore Orioles organization from top to bottom. He's a frequent guest on Baltimore-area sports radio stations and can be heard regularly on the 105.7 FM The Fan. His knowledge and contacts within the Orioles minor league system and the major league baseball scouting industry is unparalleled in the Baltimore media and is known as an expert on the Orioles prospects.