When the Orioles dropped the opener of their series in Atlanta Friday night, some cracks that hadn’t appeared in a while made unwelcomed comebacks. The starting pitching from Brian Matusz was uneven and constantly teetered on the brink of catastrophe. The offense was stagnant and frustratingly inefficient. All this came on the heels of a 5-game winning streak that featured 2 straight walk off wins, and a 3-game sweep of an upstart team. But if game 1 of the Atlanta set had any lasting effect on the Orioles, it was apparently all positive.
One day after watching teammate Jason Hammel 1-hit the Braves, Wei-Yin Chen (W, 7-2) took the mound for the Orioles, and took his turn stifling the Atlanta lineup. His wasn’t nearly as dominant an outing as Hammel’s. Chen allowed at least one Atlanta base runner in every inning he worked, except the 5th. But, with the help of double plays in each of the first three innings, the result was another string of zeros on the scoreboard.
The double play in the 3rd seemed to totally deflate the Braves. David Ross led off the inning with a single to right. That was followed by Andrelton Simmons’ bloop hit to left, advancing Ross to second, and bringing up Braves pitcher Randall Delgado (L, 4-7) in an obvious bunting situation. With the rotation play on, Chen fielded a hard bunt from Delgado, and fired to shortstop JJ Hardy, covering third, to force Ross. Hardy quickly fired across the diamond to second baseman Robert Andino, covering first, to nab Delgado for an unconventional 1-6-4 double play. Andino was charged with an error after both outs were recorded. Centerfielder Adam Jones crept in behind Simmons, who’d made a wide turn at second base. The play appeared to be over, but Andino fired to Jones. Had the throw been just to the third base side of the bag, it appeared as if the Orioles would have turned an unbelievable triple play. But Andino’s throw was to the outfield side of the bag, and too low. It skipped away from Jomes, and Simmons headed to third.
Offensively, the Orioles took a break from their slugging AL philosophy to play a little NL small-ball. Jones led off the second with a ground rule double to right. On a 1-2 pitch, Wilson Betemit skied a ball to right fielder Jason Heyward, allowing Jones to tag and move up to third. Mark Reynolds followed that up with a deep fly ball to Hayward, and Jones tagged and scored the first run of the day.
In the 6th, Steve Pearce led off with a double to left. Chen’s sacrifice bunt advanced Pearce to third, and he scored when Delgado was called for a balk.
Darren O’Day relieved Chen to start the 8th, but was pulled after giving up a leadoff hit to Simmons. Troy Patton came on for two outs, followed by Pedro Strop, who retired the only batter he faced. Jim Johnson threw a perfect 9th, including strikeouts of Dan Uggla and Matt Diaz, for his 20th save.
The birds are in New York to face the Mets in a three-game set starting tonight. Jake Arrieta (3-8, 5.89), who was so solid last time out against the Pirates, faces R.A. Dickey (10-1, 2.20), who is an early NL Cy Young Award candidate. Gametime is 7:10.
- When he’s on, Chen does everything well. He keeps the ball down. He stays ahead of hitters. He fields his position exceptionally well. He even struggles well. Sunday was another good example of Chen managing his game.
- Orioles pitching, led by Hammel and Chen, allowed runs in just 2 of 26 innings pitched in Atlanta over the weekend, and allowed 0 runs in their last 20 innings.
- The situational hitting was terrific for the Orioles Sunday, and led directly to both runs. Oftentimes, what a team does offensively with their second out determines if an inning turns into a rally or a bust. In other words: with 1-out and at least 1 on, can you be productive? In the second, Betemit’s flyout to right allowed Jones to move up 90 feet, and allowed Reynolds’ sac fly 2 pitches later to give the Orioles a run. That play won’t show up in the scorecard, but it was huge. Chen helped himself in a similar situation in the 7th, with a sac bunt. Without these 2 outs, the 2 Orioles runs today wouldn’t have scored.
- Only 4 hits and 1 walk on offense.
- Andino’s error was #10 for him this year, and the team’s 58th.