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  • Jun

    Stymied - Orioles lose 2-to-1

    Written by Mike Laws


    O’s held to two hits, surrender lead late in pitchers’ duel

    Orioles 1, Tampa Bay 2


    Sometimes, you’ve just gotta tip your cap to the opposition. Even in a close-run thing, like last night’s game, it’s hard to be too heartbroken when the guys over on the other bench, having held you in check more or less entirely, finally break through to assume the lead late in the proceedings. Would’ve been nice, you think, but it’s not like the victory was rightfully yours …


    Wait a minute. Was I talking about the Orioles or the Pittsburgh Penguins?


    Oh, right. OK, on to the bullet points:


    • Maybe the most amazing thing about Friday night’s opener down in Tampa was the fact the Orioles even ever scored their solitary run. And certainly, Rays starter Chris Archer has an argument to make that he should’ve been out of his third inning before the 1-0 deficit had the chance to materialize: Two of the young right-hander’s offerings to Chris Dickerson, who’d draw a one-out walk, looked pretty darn close to the zone, and despite spiking a wild-pitch slider to Nate McLouth that allowed Dickerson to advance to second with two away, Archer dropped a nasty full-count hook in below the Oriole left fielder’s hands — a pitch punished, probably, for missing the target from Jose Molina, but which PITCHf/x showed nipping the inside corner (and after delivery of which Archer had already started toward the home dugout). So now, McLouth aboard on the second of a pair of Archer free passes, Manny Machado strode to the dish — and promptly crunched a first-pitch fastball off the artificial turf and out of the reach of Tampa Bay shortstop Yunel Escobar on into center, bringing Dickerson around to score … 


    • Which was a margin that, though it couldn’t have been slenderer, held up through most of the ballgame. That was because Jason Hammel, doing a fine job erasing the memory of a simply abysmal prior start, was on point tonight, backing up a sharp running fastball with just about the most knee-buckling slider we’ve seen him break off in quite some time. To the extent you can deduce anything from a pitcher’s body language alone, Hammel clearly felt confident in his stuff, in this one; even when flirting with early danger, the Baltimore starter pulled himself out of it, coming up with, for example, a big swinging strikeout of the fearsome Evan Longoria (in the first), or a line-out to right off the bat of Kelly Johnson to strand runners at first and second (in the Tampa third), or the pair of fly balls that marooned James Loney, who’d doubled with one away in the fourth. And apart from those slightly more troublesome frames, Hammel was simply brilliant through until the seventh rolled around, retiring the side in order in the second, fifth and sixth innings …


    • Though good as Hammel was, Archer was probably even better; aside from the Machado RBI single in the third, a two-out Ryan Flaherty double in the fifth was quite literally all he’d allow over the remainder of his seven innings …


    • And in fact, the Rays relief corps wasn’t far off the pace set by the starter, with a two-out McLouth walk in the eighth representing the only other runner the O’s would put on base, and both Tampa setup man Joel Peralta and closer Fernando Rodney looking otherwise flawless. Meantime, the home club took advantage of the one real mistake Hammel would make all night, after Loney sliced one of his trademark tennis-backhand singles to lead off the bottom half of the seventh: The Oriole hurler started Desmond Jennings off with a two-seamer meant to tail back over the outer half, but missed his spot, the delivery finding its way over the meaty part of the dish, and Jennings torched it out over the wall behind Adam Jones in dead center. Which meant that, sadly, by the time of his departure (following a pair of outs, another single, from Escobar, and what looked like a pitch-around of Matt Joyce), Hammel now stood in line for a hard-luck loss, and surely must’ve been cursing those fickle baseball gods by the time Rodney rung up Chris Davis, looking, and then of course did his ridiculous shoot-an-arrow-at-the-scoreboard routine to celebrate the save. 2-1, Rays, is your unfortunate final … 





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