Orioles Card "O" the Day

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

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Chris Hoiles, 1996 Topps #191

April showers, yada yada yada. This is getting ridiculous. The Orioles and Pirates were rained out tonight for the second straight evening, further delaying Manny Machado's return from the disabled list. I had tickets for tonight's game, but I won't be able to swing the rescheduled doubleheader tomorrow. Sure, it's a necessary move, because the conditions were so rough in Baltimore that even the swiftest players would have been reduced to Chris Hoiles Speed, but it's still a bummer. I'm ready for those May flowers already.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Felix Pie, 2010 Topps #349

Felix Pie spent parts of three seasons playing his own haphazard brand of baseball in Baltimore, and he last took the field for the Orioles in August of 2011. Though he's still just 29 years old, the ex-Cubs prospect has moved on to Korea to continue his flagging pro baseball career. As you'll see if you follow this link, he's still doing things his own way.

While playing center field for the Hanwha Eagles, Pie seems to call time out and strolls all the way to the infield to demonstratively urge pitcher Caleb Clay to throw more strikes. If you watch the video to the end, you'll also see Felix nearly collide with Hanwha's left fielder before making a deliberate basket catch and bowing with a flourish. I wonder how it feels to be big-timed by Felix Pie.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1994 Score Burger King #8

I just noticed that this Cal Ripken, Jr. card features a cameo from legendary O's umpires' assistant Ernie Tyler. That's reason enough to post it, highly fashionable cameramen notwithstanding.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Cal Ripken, Jr., 1994 Stadium Club Dugout Dirt #4

I don't scan the backs of too many cards for this blog, but this one has to be seen to be believed:
No, your eyes don't deceive you. That is a giant-headed, wild-eyed Cal Ripken driving a steam locomotive around the bases at Camden Yards, preparing to plow into a dwarf in a Lou Gehrig uniform. Good luck falling asleep tonight.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Wei-Yin Chen, 2014 Topps Blue Parallel #138

Mercifully, today is another day. There's another game. When things look bad, I try to remember that each team gets at least 162 of these things in a season. I'll be at the ballpark in five hours, preparing to see Wei-Yin Chen throw his first pitch and try to shut down the Royals. He'll be opposed by our old pal Jeremy Guthrie, whose reputation as a pretty exemplary human being won't stop me from hoping that his ex-team lights him up like the Inner Harbor on New Year's Eve.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Boog Powell, 1963 Post #62

On a chilly, rainy Friday evening, when I'm exhausted after a long week, and the O's have been shut out by the cruddy Royals, and Chris Davis has a nagging oblique injury (those things always seem to linger), and I'm still churning through my 1994 cards in the seemingly endless ordeal of chronologically sorting and organizing my collection, and I can't stop typing this sentence, I need the cardboard equivalent of comfort food. It doesn't get any more comforting than a stained second-year Boog Powell card cut from the back of a cereal box over half a century ago. Max surely knew that when he tossed this piece of Boogalicious memorabilia in the padded envelope that traveled down the Eastern seaboard to my front porch earlier this week. He's a smart dude.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Miguel Tejada, 2004 Donruss Throwback Threads #27

With roughly one-eighth of the season in the rear view, it's too early to say that Nelson Cruz might pose a serious threat to Miguel Tejada's Orioles record of 150 RBI. But I can safely admit that it's fun watching him do his thing right now. The O's new left fielder/designated hitter had his biggest game of the young season last night, crushing a solo homer and a go-ahead grand slam to help the team turn a 6-1 deficit into a white-knuckle 10-8 win over Toronto. Through 20 games, Nelly is batting .301 and leading the team with a .386 on-base percentage, a .603 slugging percentage, 14 runs scored, six home runs, and 21 RBI. Among all American League players, only Albert Pujols (.625) is slugging higher than Cruz, and only Chris Colabello of the Twins (26!) has driven in more runs. Nelson's done most of his damage during the current road trip, batting .400/.464/.880 with four home runs and 14 RBI in six games at Fenway Park and the Rogers Centre. If all of these gaudy small-sample-size numbers don't do anything for you, can I interest you in a "CRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUZ" t-shirt giveaway?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Mike Belfiore, 2014 Topps Heritage #74

Last night I opened a blister pack of 2014 Heritage that I'd grabbed at Target while Easter basket shopping a week earlier. The lone Oriole among those 30 cards was a guy whose O's career lasted all of a single 1.1 inning relief appearance last September. I was pleasantly surprised to see Mike Belfiore sneak onto the checklist for this set; I'd assumed that he'd be just another obscure player who wouldn't be represented in my team collection.

The quick and dirty on Belfiore, in case he escaped your attention in 2013: He was a first-round compensatory pick by the Diamondbacks out of Boston College back in 2009. Three years later, Arizona traded him to the Birds for failed third base prospect Josh Bell. The lefty finished the 2012 season with a 2.71 ERA in 40 relief appearances, including a 2.85 mark in 28 games at AA Bowie. Mike struck out 10.6 men per nine innings, and had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3-to-1. The Orioles were sufficiently impressed, adding him to the 40-man roster at the end of the year. He spent most of 2013 at AAA Norfolk, with similarly encouraging numbers: a 3.18 ERA in 37 games (76.1 innings), 9.7 K/9 IP, and 2.83 K/BB. Belfiore actually got promoted to the majors on three separate occasions last year, but had to wait until the last of those callups to make his big league debut.

On September 27, 2013, he was called upon with two outs in the eighth inning and the visiting Red Sox leading 8-3. David Ortiz greeted him rudely with a three-run homer , and the southpaw walked Mike Napoli before Daniel Nava grounded into a force play at second base. Returning for the ninth inning, Mike served up a first-pitch homer to Jonny Gomes to push Boston's lead to 12-3. The rookie settled down from there, sandwiching a single between a popout and a double-play grounder to leave his earned run average at 13.50. Flash forward to the beginning of the current season, when the O's designated Belfiore for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster for Evan Meek and Delmon Young. He was claimed by the Tigers and assigned to AAA Toledo, where the 25-year-old has had a rough go of it thus far (7 ER in 8.2 IP). But for all of that, he did get his name and face on a card...even if he did have to share it with some other bozo.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

J. J. Hardy, 2014 Panini Donruss Career Stat Line #130

This card is pretty snazzy in spite of Panini's generic, derivative design. Shiny foil, J. J. Hardy rocking the Brady Anderson sideburns, and a pointless serial-numbered parallel with its print number determined by a randomly chosen statistic from the featured player's stat line. In this case, I have the 124th of Hardy's 158 Career Stat Line cards, aligning nicely with the shortstop's 158 career home runs. As it so happens, J. J.'s 124th homer came on July 14, 2012. It was a game-tying shot off of Detroit's Joaquin Benoit in the bottom of the 11th inning. Two innings later, Taylor Teagarden's first hit as an Oriole was a walkoff two-run homer. I stood in Oriole Park at Camden Yards that Saturday evening, jumping up and down and shouting in disbelief. I mentioned it on the blog.

It's great to relive that bizarre game, because there's a lot of joy associated with that entire weekend for me. 24 hours before Saturday's game, I was on my first date with my future wife at the Hamilton Tavern. Max couldn't have known any of that when he sent this card to me. Well, he could have done the legwork I just did, and pieced together the context clues from my blog entries, but that would be...unsettling. That's my completely backwards way of thanking Max. I'm just going to quit while I'm behind.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Jesse Orosco, 2000 Topps #460

Get out your paper hats and streamers, because today is Jesse Orosco's birthday! Contrary to popular belief, the wizened southpaw is not turning 87 today. No, Jesse is only 57...he's still a baby, relatively speaking. The one-time Oriole made his last appearance on a big league mound over a decade ago, finishing his 24-year big league career in 2003 with the Twins team that had drafted him in the second round way back in 1978. But I'd like to see him get one last crack at it. After all, Satchel Paige was at least 58 years old when he tossed three shutout innings for the Athletics on September 25, 1965. Surely Orosco has enough bullets remaining in that left arm to make one or two of his customary one-batter trips from the bullpen. Roster spots may be too dear during the bulk of the season, but that's the beauty of expanded September rosters. Imagine a playoff-hopeful team like the Cardinals or Tigers or (fingers crossed) the Orioles being able to call upon the most battle-tested LOOGY in baseball history to shut down an opposing lefty slugger in a high-stakes game. Alternately, what better way for a dead-end basement-dweller to goose their attendance numbers than to trade in the promise of seeing MLB's first five-decade pitcher? I'm sure ol' number 47 could be convinced. He's still the all-time leader in total games pitched by a comfortable margin (1,252 to runner-up Mike Stanton's 1,178), but with the increasing hyper-specialization of relief pitchers and the advances being made in sports medicine, a little bit of extra insurance couldn't hurt. So why not?

(Yes, I'm being serious. At least 95% serious. Baseball is just better with Jesse Orosco.)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Oriole Bird, 2014 Topps Opening Day Mascots #M-3

It's good to know that the people I love truly understand me. My wife included a rack pack of 2014 Topps Heritage in my Easter basket, and my sister got me a pack of 2014 Topps Opening Day. The latter pack featured this marvelous Oriole Bird card. On the back his identifying feature is said to be his "giant orange beak". On the front, he appears to be calling out a member of the opposing team. If I had to guess, I'd say that he's challenging Dustin Pedroia to a fight. I think the Bird could take him easily.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Rodrigo Lopez, 2003 Upper Deck SPX #15

A few thoughts on this Rodrigo Lopez card:

-Rodrigo is a ubiquitous presence in my early 2000s team collection, because he was that rarest of commodities: a competent pre-Showalter Orioles pitcher. At least, he was in 2002 and 2004. Because I see him so often while thumbing through my cards, I assumed that I had posted a glut of those cards on this blog. For a while, that was the case: in the first four years I was doing this, Lopez appeared ten times. But in those years, he was still clinging to his major league career. I haven't visited with Rodrigo on my blog for two and a half years now. Out of sight, out of mind maybe? He made four rough relief appearances with the Cubs in 2012, allowing six runs (four earned) in six and a third innings, and that was the last of his MLB experience. The Phillies signed him the following winter, but released him before spring training was through in 2013. He pitched in Mexico last season, but his ERA was 5.49. So Lopez's pitching career may be finished.

-Occasionally my scanner will play tricks with light. In this case, the bright bluish-green accents on this card are actually plain ol' silver foil. But I like the scanner's more colorful version better.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Chico Salmon, 1971 Topps #249

I haven't posted a card this...well-loved in a while. The dinged corners, the heavy creasing, and there's even some paper loss on the back. But it's all good. I'm always happy to have a grizzled veteran in the mix, as long as the picture is intact. There will always be time for upgrades.

You don't see a lot of dugout photography on older cards. It opens up another part of the players' world to the collector. Of course, Chico Salmon seems slightly put out by the photographer's presence. "Look," he could be saying, "Is this going to take much longer? The rest of the guys are on the field already, and I've got the ball. They can't start without me, and Frank Robinson is not a patient man."

Meanwhile, I wish we could identify the anonymous recumbent player in the dugout. He doesn't have a care in the world.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Boog Powell, 1993 Ted Williams #84

The Orioles are taking the day off, and so am I. Let's look at a beautiful card from my adolescence, when getting Boog Powell and other retired stars in contemporary packs of cards was still a big deal. Here is not one, but two full-color action photos of the Booger, showing off his massive forearms and his impeccable fashion sense. A single black batting glove? Socks pulled up to mid-calf? I think Powell pulls it off.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pete Harnisch, 1989 Score Rookies and Traded #110T

Today the Orioles all wore #42 to honor Jackie Robinson, who broke baseball's color line in 1947. It seemed to suit them, as Miguel Gonzalez teamed with Zach Britton and Tommy Hunter to shut out the Rays on six hits. The 3-0 final brings the O's back to .500 with a 7-7 record as they head to Boston.

I also posted a Pete Harnisch card on my 1993 Topps blog today. I'll keep plugging it whenever I get the chance because more people read this blog than that one right now.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Nick Markakis, 2012 Topps Opening Day #33

Well, the wildly schizophrenic Mid-Atlantic weather has swung to another extreme, with a full day of heavy rain slashing the 80-degree temperatures of the weekend by half and postponing tonight's Orioles-Rays game. So instead of driving downtown to watch Miguel Gonzalez square off with Jake Odorizzi, I'm holed up in the house with my pets, cold beer, and WWE Network live streaming on the Xbox. I'm sure Nick Markakis and the rest of the O's are enjoying the extra rest, especially since Adam Jones and Evan Meek are now afflicted with the flu bug that laid low Brian Matusz and hitting coach Jim Presley for the past few days. Get healthy, guys.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Eddie Murray, 2001 Upper Deck Decades: 1970s #163

Yesterday I completed my second vintage Topps set. It's been almost two years since I reached 100% on the 1965 Topps set, and now I've finally finished off the 1975 base set as well. The elusive 660th card was a doozy, card number 228. That would be the rookie card of Hall of Famer George Brett, which explains why I didn't hesitate to drop $15 on the rough-around-the-edges specimen I discovered in one of my local hobby shops. I'm pleased to wrap up Topps' most colorful, funky set without any real headaches. As you can see from the 2001 Eddie Murray card I posted above, '75 Topps inspired plenty of imitators, but it was never successfully duplicated. Now I'll move on to pursue a number of the half-full, commons-heavy 1970s binders in my spare room. I also grabbed some 1971-1973 high number cards from this store's dollar box, sparing myself a dozen or two wild goose chases in the future. The comforting thing about catching up on vintage cards is that there is a finite goal to build toward. No unscrupulous manufacturer is going to come along and extend the finish line.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

David Lough, 2014 Topps Heritage #278

When Janet and I entered the ballpark for last night's game, a matchup of Orioles' fifth starter Bud Norris and Blue Jays' second-year pitcher Drew Hutchison, I certainly didn't expect a pitching duel. But Bud and Drew were both up to the task, trading zeroes for six innings. When Jonathan Schoop drove a double into the gap off of Toronto reliever Neil Wagner in the seventh, with David Lough racing around to score from first base, it looked like Norris might squeak out the win. Looks can be deceiving, though. New O's closer Tommy Hunter got two quick outs in the ninth and quickly ran the count to 0-2 against Jays center fielder Colby Rasmus. When he threw a third straight curveball, Rasmus tried - and seemingly failed - to check his swing. But fill-in third base umpire Jeff Gosney, working his first-ever MLB game, denied catcher Steve Clevenger's appeal. Rasmus powered Hunter's next pitch over the right-center field fence for a deflating, game-tying home run.

When the Birds allowed both Steve Lombardozzi and Lough to bat in the bottom of the ninth, leaving the more powerful Steve Pearce, Matt Wieters, and Delmon Young on the bench, I sarcastically tweeted my approval of the move. Shows what I know, right? Both men were retired in the ninth, but the game pushed on into the 10th, 11th, and 12th innings with the score still knotted 1-1. In the bottom of the 12th, the Orioles finally figured out Blue Jays reliever Todd Redmond in his fourth inning of work. J. J. Hardy smoked a ball into deep right field, but Jose Bautista made a great leaping catch to rob the O's shortstop of extra bases. But neither Bautista nor Colby Rasmus could track down Steve Lombardozzi's drive to center field, and the second baseman motored all the way into third base with a triple. That set the stage for Lough, who'd been struggling with concussion symptoms and entered the game batting .105, to play the hero by belting a line drive over third base for the walkoff hit. Now I've been to two games at Camden Yards in 2014, and they're the only two games the Birds have won at home in the young season. Both were 2-1 finals, with Zach Britton picking up the win in relief each time. I'm hoping that's a coincidence and not a trend...I don't think my heart can take many more razor-thin games like that.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Brooks Robinson, 2003 Topps Tribute Perennial All-Stars #50

In a few moments I'm heading out for a lovely evening of baseball with my wife. Pregame dinner at C & R Pub in Federal Hill, where my oldest friend Joe is tending bar, followed by the O's and the Jays at Camden Yards. Fingers are crossed in hopes of a competent Bud Norris start, some liveliness from the Baltimore bats (way to hand Dustin McGowan his first win since 2008, guys), and improved defense from young Jonathan Schoop at third base. I realize that he's still learning, but the two unearned runs that saddled Chris Tillman with the loss last night were both on Schoop. He was looking more like Mark Reynolds than Brooks Robinson. But today is another day, and I have faith.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Andy Etchebarren, 1972 Topps #26

One of the many wonderful things about Andy Etchebarren is his unusual and unwieldy surname. When the name on the back of your jersey is 11 letters long, the nameplate ends up leaking down into your armpits. I've also noticed this phenomenon with Steve Lombardozzi, one of the newest Orioles. Lombo is a utility infielder who grew up in Howard County, just south of Baltimore, and his father (also Steve) roamed the Twins' infield in the 1980s. Steve's also got an 11-letter last name, and it fills up the back of his O's jersey quite nicely. It's not quite Jarrod Saltalamacchia territory, but it's still a fun sight when tuning into a game.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Mike Devereaux, 1994 Score Select #131

It's Mike Devereaux's 51st birthday today! Why not celebrate by watching him rob Joe Carter of a three-run home run on June 5, 1992 in a still-new Camden Yards? This grab came in the sixth inning of a then-scoreless game, and it ended up being a huge play. Blue Jays starter Jimmy Key held the O's to four singles in seven and two-thirds innings, but Cal Ripken greeted reliever Duane Ward with a single to drive in the only run of the game in the bottom of the eighth. With Devo's assist and Cal's timely hitting, Sutcliffe earned his eighth win of the '92 season. Gregg Olson got the save, inducing a double play grounder from Carter and a flyout from Kelly Gruber. With the win, Baltimore pushed their way into a first-place tie with Toronto.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Bob Boyd, 1991 Crown/Coca-Cola All-Time Orioles #46

Say, didja know that 55 years ago today - April 9, 1959 - the Orioles became the first team in major league history to turn a triple play on Opening Day?

It's true, as at least 85% of the things I write on this blog are. The Birds were kicking off their season a ways down south in Washington, D.C.'s Griffith Stadium. Unfortunately, starting pitcher Jack Harshman had already dug the Birds a 5-0 hole by the bottom of the fifth inning, when famed Venezuelan shortstop Chico Carrasquel made his O's debut as a defensive replacement for Whitey Lockman, who had pinch hit for Ron Hansen. (Still with me?) Hoyt Wilhelm also entered the game from the Baltimore bullpen, and immediately got himself into a jam by walking Roy Sievers and failing to get an out after Bob Allison bunted the ball back to him. With runners on first and second, the knuckleballer was bailed out by his defense. Ed Fitz Gerald smashed a line drive to the right side, but it found first baseman Bob Boyd's glove for the first out. Thinking on his feet, Boyd fired the ball to second base, where Carrasquel forced Sievers for the second out. Chico relayed the ball back to Boyd at first base, and Allison was dead meat. One play, three outs.

Sadly, the triple killing did little to arrest the Senators' momentum. They piled on some insurance in the late innings, and it took a two-out, two-run homer in the ninth from Gus Triandos to spoil Pedro Ramos' shutout bid. Ramos rebounded to retire Brooks Robinson on a grounder to short to complete the 9-2 rout. One of Washington's offensive standouts was a young Harmon Killebrew, who had a single, a stolen base (!), and a two-run homer in four trips to the plate. If it's any consolation, the Orioles clawed their way to a sixth-place, 74-80 record in 1959, while the Senators stumbled into the cellar at 63-91 in what turned out to be their penultimate season in the Nation's Capital.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Matt Wieters, 2012 Panini Triple Play #9

Well, the starting pitching is still a fright, but I guess the hitters are feeling a bit better. After scoring a total of 22 runs through the first seven games of the season, the Orioles broke out and stomped the Yankees 14-5 this afternoon. They'd managed 10 hits only once, so of course today the O's racked up 20, and in the process doubled their season home run total by going yard three times. One of those homers came from Matt Wieters, one of the few Baltimore hitters who's had any success thus far. Today he drove in three runs and ran his season-opening hitting streak to seven games, giving him a team-best .370 average. It's early, but it would be nice if #32 were able to bounce back from the worst offensive campaign of his career.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Sid Fernandez, 1995 Donruss #270

Today it was Sid Fernandez's turn to be featured on my 1993 Topps blog. That got me thinking. I've spent some time smacking El Sid around on this blog, but he must have had a good game or two amidst that horrific season-plus in Baltimore, right?

Right. As a matter of fact, Sid had seven "quality starts" as an Oriole, all coming in 1994. The best of those was on April 28, in his third appearance in orange and black. He pitched into the ninth inning against the host Angels, allowing three hits and two walks and striking out five. The only Halo runs came on a pair of solo homers by Chili Davis and future sexual predator Chad Curtis. The second of those homers chased Fernandez from the game, but Lee Smith only needed three pitches to nail down the 4-2 O's win, Sid's first with the Birds.

Now you can't say that I never said a kind word about Sid Fernandez.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Gary Roenicke, 1985 Fleer #188

I'm dumping-and-running today so that I can visit with a good friend and watch WrestleMania XXX. That's not the rating - this is the 30th annual mega-event put on by Vince McMahon and company. If it helps you understand how different things were back in 1985, baseball cards looked like this. There were 26 MLB teams in four divisions, compared to 30 and six today. The keynote celebrities at the first WrestleMania in Madison Square Garden included Cyndi Lauper, Liberace, Muhammad Ali, and former Yankee manager Billy Martin. (Hey, I managed to link rasslin' and baseball after all!) Enjoy your Sunday night, folks.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Jim Johnson, 2013 Bowman Chrome #185

Jim Johnson might be the only guy who's had a worse first week of the 2014 than the Orioles. On Monday, Oakland and the Indians were scoreless when the new A's closer entered the game in the ninth. Five batters later, he'd given up two runs and only recorded one out. The Athletics lost the game, and Jim was serenaded with boos as he headed for the showers. Two days later, he got his first save chance of the year in the nightcap of a doubleheader. Trying to protect a 3-2 lead, JJ instead gave up three runs on three hits and two walks in two-thirds of an inning and earned his second loss. On the plus side, he did lower his ERA from 54.00 to 45.00. Today, he finally escaped an inning unscathed, but it was an eighth-inning appearance with Oakland trailing Seattle by two. So that's a start.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Vintage Fridays: Charlie Lau, 1965 Topps #94

Another day, another woofer for the Orioles. They haven't topped ten hits in a game yet. Leaving aside the very hittable Baltimore pitching for a moment, I think the Birds could use some of Charlie Lau's famed batting instruction. Hey, it worked for George Brett and Harold Baines. Sure, there's the little matter of Lau having died 20 years ago, but surely they've got pills and creams for that sort of thing. We're living in the future, aren't we?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Wei-Yin Chen, 2013 Panini Pinnacle #77

Well, that was unpleasant. The Orioles have their first series loss of the season and their first losing streak. The Red Sox, as loath as I am to admit it, are a pretty good team. They didn't win the 2013 World Series by accident. In 27 tries over these first three games of the season, Baltimore pitchers had one 1-2-3 inning. Wei-Yin Chen suffered death by a thousand paper cuts tonight, giving up four runs on 11 singles and a double. The Birds continued their opening-series offensive torpor, scraping together three runs before being blanked in the final three innings. There's still 159 games left to go, and tomorrow's another day. Off to Detroit.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

L. J. Hoes, 2013 Panini Prizm #279

Opening Week scheduling quirks left me without an O's game to watch last night, so I settled for some former Orioles beating the tar out of the Yankees.

The Bronx Bombers were in Houston to take on the lowly Astros, but the hosts flipped the script for one night. Scott Feldman, who gave the Birds 15 fair-to-middlin' starts after a midseason trade from the Cubs in 2013, assumed his mantle as the Astros' would-be ace when he signed a three-year deal in the offseason. He stayed on top of the Yanks for 6.2 scoreless innings, with two New York singles accounting for the only hits against him. Meanwhile the unheralded Houston lineup battered a newly-svelte CC Sabathia for four first-inning runs and six runs total, with L. J. Hoes' second career home run accounting for one of the tallies. The Yankees tried to make it interesting with a pair of eighth-inning runs, but stout ex-Baltimore reliever Matt Albers slammed the door with a scoreless ninth, pitching around a Kelly Johnson double to the gap. The 6-2 final, combined with Toronto's 4-2 victory over the Rays, gave the Orioles sole possession of first place in the hardscrabble American League East. That's a pretty good day off, in my book.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Zach Britton, 2013 Topps Update Series Gold #US292

I'm back! I didn't expect to be offline for a week, but my laptop charger was totally kaput. I bought a cheapo replacement, so let's hope it holds.

For the first blog post of the 2014 season, I give you the unlikely winner of the first game of the year. I had the pleasure of attending the Opening Day festivities at Camden Yards, and it was everything I had hoped: a 10:00 AM departure from the office, a pleasant sunny day (24 hours after one more baffling late-March snowfall), and of course a nail-biting 2-1 win over the defending World Champion Red Sox. Chris Tillman battled through five innings, stranding numerous Boston runners and allowing a single run on a just-barely-gone solo homer by the reanimated corpse of Grady Sizemore. Zach Britton relieved him and used his sinker to collect six groundouts in the span of seven batters. That put him in line for the W when Nelson Cruz heralded his own arrival in Baltimore with a towering solo shot to the left field seats off of Oriole nemesis Jon Lester in the seventh. From there, Brian Matusz stamped out a would-be Sox rally in the eighth and Tommy Hunter earned the save by striking out Jackie Bradley, Jr. with two runners on in the ninth. That's a good place to start.