Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Roberts picks up Simon with walk-off HR in the 10th

Brian Roberts led off the bottom of the 10th inning with a home run to give the Orioles a 3-2 win -- their sixth win in seven games under manager Buck Showalter. Going into the ninth and clinging to a 2-1 lead, closer Alfredo Simon allowed a solo shot to Paul Konerko to tie the game.

Besides Simon, the rest of the O's pitchers were solid. Brian Matusz gave up one run on three hits in six innings, lowering his ERA to 5.08. He also struck out four and walked two. Because of Simon's blown save, Matusz didn't get the win, but his performance was good enough to win on most nights. Koji Uehara relieved Matusz and pitched two scoreless innings. He didn't allow a hit and only needed 16 pitches to retire six consecutive batters. Michael Gonzalez did an effective job of relieving Simon and escaping the ninth inning without giving up the go-ahead run. Matt Albers also retired two batters in the top of the 10th and eventually earned the win.

Back to Uehara for a minute: He's been on a bit of a roll lately. Since giving up two runs in an appearance against Detroit on July 5, Uehara has allowed just one run -- against Toronto on July 28 -- and has struck out 14 batters and walked just one in 12.2 innings. During that span, he's lowered his ERA from 4.50 to 2.18. My beef with Uehara has never been that he isn't effective -- just that, at least earlier in the season, he seemed to tire when having to throw more than a few pitches in humid weather. Whether or not it's because he's in improved shape or just feeling better now that he's healthy, he's been outstanding lately and is looking like the best reliever in the O's bullpen.

The offense was held in check by White Sox starter Edwin Jackson through the first five innings, though they did put up two runs (one earned) against him in six innings. The O's finally got to him in the sixth with a Ty Wigginton solo home run. Then, aided by a Dayan Viciedo error, the O's loaded the bases with one out and took a 2-1 lead on a Matt Wieters RBI fielder's choice to first base. Instead of immediately throwing home, first baseman Konerko fielded the ball, touched first base, and then threw home too late to nail a sliding Luke Scott at the plate.

Besides the home runs by Wigginton and Roberts, the O's had six other hits, all singles, by Wigginton (2-4), Scott (2-4), Adam Jones (1-3, walk), and Felix Pie (2-4). Roberts also walked.

One other note: There's no question that Josh Bell is struggling mightily at the plate. In 52 at-bats, Bell has just eight hits (one double). He's also struck out 21 times while failing to draw a walk -- a dangerous sign. It's not a positive sign either that he batted ninth behind Cesar Izturis last night. He's simply been overmatched, and I'm just not sure this can be good for his development -- and I was one of the people clamoring for him to get more playing time when Miguel Tejada was still on the roster. And yet, that isn't the only problem. On a few plays in the field last night, Bell was too tentative. He was called off on a routine (though very high) pop up to third base by Izturis, and on another play, Bell failed to take charge on a pop up near the third base line, which forced Wieters to make a difficult, and awkward, catch. It was good to see Bell take charge on a tough fly ball in foul ground not more than an inning or two later after the Wieters play -- Bell made the catch -- but he has to be more sure of himself. There's no reason for Bell to get called off by the catcher on just about any pop up around third base; it's one thing for him to struggle at the plate, but he can't bring that with him out onto the field.

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