Orioles Card "O" the Day

An intersection of two of my passions: baseball cards and the Baltimore Orioles. Updated daily?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Willis Roberts, 2004 Topps #105

Last night I took advantage of a beautiful spring evening to witness the fourth win of Zach Britton's career, a relatively drama-free 4-1 victory over the hated Red Sox. The young lefty from Texas is now 4-1 with a 2.84 ERA after five starts, and has tied an Orioles rookie record for wins in April. In 2001, Willis Roberts got off to a 4-0 start, but the first of those W's came in relief. Of course, Zach is a highly touted prospect with a killer sinker, whereas Roberts was a 26-year-old minor league vet with a penchant for goofy post-strikeout theatrics.

I've made it to three O's games so far this season, and I'm relieved to have the first win out of the way. With Britton on the mound, I was cautiously optimistic going in, though I was wary of a scuffling Birds offense facing Clay Buchholz. Despite a shaky start to 2011, Buchholz has had past success against our guys, including a *grumble* no-hitter a few years back. The Orioles got to Buchholz early and often, but never did break the game open. A dozen hits and three walks added up to only four runs, but that's practically an explosion these days. Three sacrifice flies (two by Adam Jones and one by Mark Reynolds) and a Matt Wieters dribbler that struck the first base bag and kicked away for a single accounted for the Baltimore tallies.

Meanwhile, Zach was sharp early and tough in the middle innings. A Dustin Pedroia single in the fourth was the first hit the rookie allowed, and Boston's second baseman scored the only run of the night for the visitors after advancing on a groundout, a steal, and a Kevin Youkilis flyout. After Britton retired the first two batters in the fifth, he loaded the bases and had to face Beantown's powerful new first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. He got ahead 1-2 and induced a grounder to second base. He then capped his evening by pitching around a couple of singles in the sixth.

The O's bullpen retired 9 of the last 10 batters of the game. Jim Johnson was just plain nasty, using 25 pitches to blow through the seventh and eighth innings. He allowed a leadoff double to Gonzalez in the eighth, but notched four strikeouts and turned it over to...Kevin Gregg. I didn't want the Birds to sign the begoggled closer in the first place, and a few early-season blowups further soured my opinion of him. But he barely broke a sweat last night, using 10 pitches to get a 1-2-3 save.

I haven't been to an O's-Red Sox game in years. With obnoxious Boston fans packing Camden Yards in recent years and having the nerve to smugly call our park "Fenway South", it just wasn't my idea of fun. There were more Red Sox rooters in attendance than I would have liked last night, but it was pretty tame  after all. The overall attendance was only 18,938, probably due to it being a weeknight game early in the season. Then again, maybe some of the bandwagoners jumped off as soon as Boston lost their first six games and haven't noticed the team's recent hot streak. It helped that the O's arms didn't give the invading fans much to cheer about, but on the few occasions that they did get frisky, those of us in black and orange shouted/booed them down. Even though I was surrounded by navy blue and red up in the upper box, the visitors in my section were well-behaved adult types and it never got ugly.

I also had a great time because I had lots of good company. As has become tradition, my sister rode down to the stadium with me. Our younger cousin Brittany (who was six the last time the Orioles had a winning season) met us there, as did my high school classmate and fellow O's diehard Matt and my former roommate and well-behaved Yankee fan (they do exist) Mike. Heck, we were enjoying ourselves so much that we barely noticed that Buchholz was taking coffee breaks in between each and every bloody pitch.

By the time I got around to writing this post, the Orioles made it two in a row. Dare we hope for a sweep of those dastardly Sawx?

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