Thursday, June 7, 2012

Birdland Bulletin: Back On Track

The Orioles needed to win this series versus the last place Red Sox more than Andrew Bynum needs Just For Men.  After winning 10 of their first 14 series in 2012, the Orioles dropped their next four series. In fact the Orioles had not won a series since round one of the Battle of the Beltway at Nationals Park. Sorry I’m not sorry for bringing that up Nationals fans.   The Orioles fan base started to groan and gripe, and the talking heads jumped off our bandwagon faster than John Kruk can eat a cheesesteak.  Birdland can resettle itself because there is no quit in this baseball team and therefore the same should be expected of the fan base.

Game one was the kind of game that the Orioles would have lost a year ago.  Every time the Red Sox scored a run to either tie the game or take the lead, the Orioles would come right back and respond with a few runs of their own.  Despite Mark Reynolds’s defense being more toxic than a pond in New Jersey, and Jim Johnson blowing his first save of the season, the Orioles were able to rally together and show resilience in enemy territory.  It was a much-needed win considering they had lost seven of their previous eight games.

They carried the momentum of Game 1into last night with a gritty win against the Red Sox ace Josh Beckett.  There was not enough beer and chicken in the world to console Mr. Beckett after watching his teammates fall to the tunes of Sweet Chen Music.  Wei-Yin Chen twirled his way in and out of 3 ball counts for 7 innings, and Robert Andino continued his very personal assault on Red Sox Nation with an inside out single to right on a Beckett curveball that tied the game 1-1.  The next batter, Endy Chavez then brought in the go ahead and ultimately winning run on a fielder’s choice.  The back end combo (sounds like an item on Taco Bell’s menu) of the HeliSTROPter and Jim Johnson continued to be reliable as they collected the final six outs of the game without much trouble.  This was an important game for Jim Johnson because it was the night after his first blown save of the year. Closers need to have short memories and it was important to see how Johnson responded to his first blown save since August 6 of last season.  Failing to get the job done was as foreign to Jim Johnson as speaking Swahili is for me.  But J.J. was in his usual lockdown mode and nailed down the series win for the Birds.

Tonight the Orioles go for the sweep and their eighth consecutive win at Fenway Park.  They will send the RE-emerging Brian Matusz to the mound to face off against “The Laptop Larcen” Clay Buchholz. Matusz has really righted the ship with 4 consecutive quality starts in which he has gone 3-1.  After a rocky start to the season, Matusz has evened his record to 5-5 and lowered his ERA to 4.41.  His success can directly be attributed to his command coupled with his sharp curveball and his fastball sitting consistently at 92-93.  His renewed velocity is giving Matusz a little more leeway against the big hitters of the vaunted A.L. East.  Fenway is always a scary place for a left-hander to pitch because it is so friendly to right handed hitters.   However, Matusz has looked strong as of late and has hopefully turned the proverbial corner.

There are still some big concerns surrounding this team (e.g. Nick Markakis’s hamate injury, the majority of the rotation’s struggles, and Mark Reynolds playing first base with a frying pan on his hand), but the team remains resilient and still holds a ½ game lead of first place in the A.L. BEast.  The surging Yankees are on their tails and the Rays are only a game back.  All teams in the A.L. BEast are .500 or better so this division will be one of the best races in all of baseball, and the Orioles should remain in the mix.

No comments:

Post a Comment