Friday, April 9, 2010

Orioles hold on to get first win of 2010

First off, great win for the O's last night. I didn't have the chance to watch the entire game, but I did make it home in time to watch the end of the game. It looked like Mike Gonzalez might blow another ninth inning lead, but to his credit, he got the job done. But more on the win in a minute.

Man, what an eventful three-game series for Carl Crawford. In the first game, he hit a walkoff double (even though it was really a single) to win the game for the Rays. In the second game of the series, Crawford was involved in a controversial strike-three/check swing call at home plate that led to a double play for the Orioles. The play ended up not mattering much as the Rays still won, but both Crawford and the crowd were not pleased with the home plate umpire.

And if that wasn't enough, Crawford was again right in the middle of another blown call last night (though it again didn't effect the outcome of the game). In the top of the eighth with one out, Matt Wieters hit a sinking line drive to left field. Crawford got a great jump on the ball and lunged forward, snagging the ball right before it hit the ground (view the play here). Watching the play quickly, it's easy to see why the second base umpire (Dana Demuth) thought Crawford trapped the ball against the turf. I'm not going to start rambling on about the use of instant replay only for home run calls, but eventually the use of instant replay needs to be expanded. Seriously, how long would it have taken to watch that video a few times to determine that Crawford did indeed catch the ball? One minute? Maybe two? Again, it was only a single, and the O's didn't score that inning. But isn't it important to get the call right?

Anyway, back to the game. Making his season debut, Brian Matusz had an up-and-down performance. In five innings, he allowed only two earned runs and two hits. But he walked five batters and threw 97 pitches. Then again, he also struck out seven. So, I guess you could say he was effectively wild, though it's never a good idea to average a walk per inning. Still, he admitted that he was a little nervous and noted that his mechanics were off because of it. Matusz did finish strong, striking out four of the last five batters he faced, including striking out the side in the bottom of the fifth.

After Matusz left the game trailing 2-1, the O's went on the attack and pieced together a four-run inning. Nick Markakis led off the inning with a single, and Miguel Tejada followed by getting hit by a pitch on an 0-2 count. Luke Scott then walked to load the bases. Next, Wieters hit a single to center, scoring Markakis, and Tejada scored after that on a wild pitch by reliever Grant Balfour. With runners on second and third, Nolan Reimold struck out swinging, but Garrett Atkins singled to hit, which allowed Scott and Wieters to score. Not a bad rally, and as it turns out, the O's would need all four of those runs.

With Matusz out, the bullpen did an adequate job -- Matt Albers gave up one run in two innings, Will Ohman retired the only batter he faced, Jim Johnson allowed one run in two-thirds of an inning, and Gonzalez pitched a scoreless ninth for the save even though he walked two batters and gave up a hit. It was a George Sherrill-type save for Gonzalez -- a roller-coaster ride to the very end -- but it worked. The only thing missing was a bunch of Orioles flipping up the brim of their hats after it was over.

On offense, the Orioles combined for nine hits and three walks. Brian Roberts, Wieters, and Atkins each went 2-4, with Roberts drawing a walk, Wieters driving in a run, and Atkins driving in two. Reimold scored the game's first run in the top of the third when he homered to left field (watch here). Markakis and Scott each had a hit and a walk. Adam Jones went 0-5 and was somewhat impatient, only seeing 13 pitches. Tejada (11 pitches) and Julio Lugo (13 pitches) were both 0-4, though, as mentioned before, Tejada did reach on a HBP.

For the third straight game, the Orioles didn't commit an error, but since I didn't watch the game, it's hard to tell if there were a few balls that O's fielders didn't get to that maybe they should have. Listening to the radio on the way home, I do remember a play from the bottom of the eighth on a Carlos Pena ground ball to second that could have been turned for a double play but wasn't because of a bobble or something. But B.J. Upton fouled out in the next at bat for the third out, so it didn't hurt the O's.

Overall, O's pitchers walked too many Rays batters (eight times), but they pitched out of jams and got the win. Hopefully they get the walks out of their system, and hopefully Wieters keeps going 2-4 every game. Not likely -- but hey, if anyone can do it, Wieters can.

Next game: O's home opener today against the Blue Jays, 3:05 p.m. Brad Bergesen vs. Brandon Morrow.

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