Saturday, May 12, 2012
Adam Jones, 2010 Bowman 1992 Throwbacks #BT70
The game itself looked like it was going to get ugly. The O's promoted Dana Eveland from AAA Norfolk to make a spot start in place of Jason Hammel, and it would be an understatement to say that he was erratic. He put the Birds in a 3-1 hole, but relied on good fortune and damage control to limit Tampa Bay's scoring. The Rays loaded the bases to open the second inning, but a run-scoring double-play grounder by Sean Rodriguez and a flyout to left field by Jose Molina blunted the rally. Eveland stranded a pair of runners in the third, but faced another crisis in the fourth. In this case a walk and back-to-back singles packed the sacks with one out, and Rays shortstop Elliot Johnson drove a 2-1 offering to deep right field. Nick Markakis got a glove on it, but couldn't make the catch. Matt Joyce scored and Rodriguez broke for home as Markakis rifled a throw to Robert Andino, and the second baseman whirled and fired to Matt Wieters, who was blocking the plate as usual. Wieters made a perfect catch just as the runner leveled him with a forearm to the neck. Matt fell backward, sat in the dirt, and did his new trademark move. He flashed his glove at Rodriguez, showing him the ball, and turned and showed it to the ump. One run in, one runner out. The Orioles' star catcher strolled out to the mound to have a word with his pitcher and to catch his breath. As he returned to the plate, he was rewarded with a standing ovation. Buck Showalter and trainer Richie Bancells came out to check on Wieters, but he was unharmed save for a few scratches. Eveland intentionally walked Ben Zobrist to get a lefty-lefty matchup with Carlos Pena, but plunked Pena in the back with his first pitch to force in another run. Fortunately, B. J. Upton hit a short fly ball to Markakis and Tampa Bay doubled their left-on-base total to six.
At that point, Dana Eveland had thrown 71 pitches. Somehow he regrouped to post a pair of 12-pitch innings, pitching around a Luke Scott double in the fifth and a walk to Zobrist in the sixth. It may have been the ugliest so-called "quality start" in team history: in six innings, he allowed five hits, walked six, only struck out two, and hit two batters. One way or another, he handed things over to the strong O's bullpen with the game still in reach.
The Orioles haven't had the most efficient offense this year, but they've covered for their shortcomings by hitting for power. Adam Jones put the Birds on the board in the second inning with a leadoff home run to left field, already his tenth of the year. Last year, when he set a new career high with 25 homers, he didn't hit #10 until June 18. The O's didn't muster anything else against Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson until the bottom of the sixth, when Nick Markakis hit a two-out, full-count solo home run to right-center. It was the sixth time Nick has gone deep, and he's also well ahead of his 2011 pace; he didn't leave the yard for the sixth time until June 25. It's a promising sign for the right fielder, who has seen his slugging percentage drop every year since 2008.
Still, I didn't have high hopes when Hellickson rebounded to retire the next three hitters he faced. But with two outs in the home half of the seventh, but Chris Davis lined a single up the middle to chase the starter. Nick Johnson, who went 0-for-April, greeted reliever Joel Peralta with a high fly ball to right field. Zobrist was tracking it back to the fence, but it sneaked into the second row of the bleachers for a go-ahead two-run shot. It capped a perfect day for the O's DH, who also singled, walked, and stole his second base of the season!
As difficult as things were for Dana Eveland, the Orioles' relievers made it look easy. Darren O'Day (credited with his third win), Pedro Strop, and Jim Johnson (earning his tenth save) each tossed a perfect inning, combining for only 19 total pitches-17 for strikes. Orioles 4, Rays 3. The Baltimore Orioles have sole possession in the American League East two weeks into May. I still don't know exactly what's going on, but I'm doing my best not to question it.