In major need of a win against a fellow wild card challenger, the Orioles took on the Oakland A’s at Camden Yards Sunday afternoon. The Birds dropped an absolute heartbreaker Friday night, with the A’s erupting for six in the ninth. Saturday, a poor pitching performance combined with an inopportune offensive night led to a 6-1 defeat. Sunday, the Birds flipped the script on the A’s, getting a fantastic outing from Wei-Yen Chen, and picking up timely hits, en route to a 6-1 win.
Chen (W, 9-6) threw a lot of pitches (108) in 5.2 innings of work. He walked four and gave up three hits, but just one unearned run to the team that had scored 20 in their last 18 innings. He recorded 17 outs, 12 of them via strikeout. Chen got the first three of those strikeouts in the first. Jemile Weeks battled him out of the gate, leading off with a nine-pitch at bat before Chen got him waving at a 91 MPH fastball on the outer half. Jonny Gomes and Josh Reddick followed in Weeks’ footsteps, though in far shorter order.
Still scoreless in the top of the second, A’s center fielder Yoenis Cespedes laced a ball down the left field line for, what looked to be an easy leadoff double. But Lew Ford, recalled before the game from Norfolk (and playing his first game in the majors in five years), went into a slide, cutting the ball off before it reached the wall. Ford popped to his feet and fired a bullet into Omar Quintanilla, who dropped his glove directly between Cespedes’ lead slide foot, and the second base bag, for out number one. Chris Carter walked, but Chen came back to fan Brandon Inge and Derek Norris, ending the threat.
The O’s would get on the scoreboard in the third. Quintanilla led off with a bunt single. He moved to third when Carter dropped a pickoff throw from A’s starter Travis Blackley (L, 3-3). JJ Hardy walked, bringing Adam Jones to the plate.
This series had been uneven for Jones. His fifth inning three-run home run Friday night was one of the most dramatic moments for the team this season, bringing them all the way back from a 5-0 deficit. But he followed that up with an 0/4 night Saturday, and left five teammates on base. On Blackley’s first pitch, he would put Saturday behind him.
Jones ripped a lifeless, 82 MPH changeup into the gap in left center, short-hopping the wall. Quintanilla scored, and Hardy moved to third with one out. Next up was All-Star catcher Matt Wieters who, offensively at least, has played like anything but an All-Star recently. And, that’s when he’s played. He’d missed the first two games of the A’s series with a right bicep issue.
Ensconced in a 1-for-31 slump, and having not homered in his last 59 at-bats, Wieters got a pitch he could drive from Blackley. He launched the 90 MPH, thigh-high fastball into the seats in left for a three-run homer (13), and a 4-0 Orioles lead.
A single, two walks and another error by Carter at first gave the birds another run in the fifth, making it 5-0.
The A’s got on the board against Chen in the sixth, aided by an error by Quintanilla. Chen was lifted after giving up a hit to Inge, loading the bases with two outs. Darren O’Day got the Orioles back into the dugout without further damage, and Quintanilla would atone for the “E-4” by blasting his first homer as an Oriole in the bottom of the sixth.
The Orioles now pack their bags and hit the road to New York. Miguel Gonzalez (2-2, 4.28) will try to rebound from a horrible outing against Tampa Bay last Wednesday. He’ll be up against Freddy Garcia (4-4, 5.16) for the Yankees. First pitch is slated for 7:05.
- Chen’s 12 strikeouts were the most for an Orioles pitcher this season, and the most since Erik Bedard whiffed 15 against Texas in 2007. It’s also a major league record for a pitcher from Taiwan. Not bad for just 5.2 innings of work.
- Omar Quintanilla continues to contribute every day. 3-for-4, 2R, 1 HR Sunday. It’s early, but so far, you’d have to say the O’s got a steal here.
- Lew Ford didn’t get any hits in his first game back to the majors in five years, but his play in the second was pretty to watch.
- O’Day, Troy Patton, Pedro Strop, and Luis Ayala combined for 3.1 shutout innings out of the bullpen, giving up 4 hits, 0 walks, and striking out 2.
- News of Brian Roberts electing season ending hip surgery is, while not surprising, still tough after all he went through to come back from his concussion.