Written by Mike Laws
Nice and easy
Anchored by Feldman, Birds break through late
Orioles 9, Kansas City 2
Bored but happy. It’s a rare and rather curious state of mind. Polishing off a big meal comes close, but that’s more like sated and lazy and content. Maybe you can achieve it lying on a beach, or in a rocking chair on a porch, or sitting up on the lawn at Merriweather during the Bluegrass Festival.
But nothing says pleasant ennui quite like a game started by Scott Feldman.
The newest member of the Baltimore rotation’s never gonna wow you with the quality of his stuff. Unlike (for example) Wei-Yin Chen, he’ll never remind anyone of Tom Glavine. A Zito-esque Chris Tillman curve, he doesn’t possess. He’s slow to the plate. He takes his time in between pitches. There are times during his outings when you can be excused for catching up on that article you’ve been meaning to finish, or checking out feline photos on Reddit, or examining your cuticles.
Therein, of course, lies the key to Feldman’s effectiveness, on full display for the Monday opener in Kansas City. The right-hander deployed his usual mix of balance-upsetting variously paced fastballs and cutters (lots and lots of cutters) and totally disruptive slower curves. He cruised through two, then surrendered a run in both the third and fourth, with the two singles (and subsequent sac-fly) in the former and three in the latter representing the sum total of the damage the Royals could muster against him (unless you count the consecutive walks Feldman pitched around, in the fifth). His sixth and seventh innings of work went like this: strikeout, groundout, groundout; strikeout, fly-out, fly-out. His eighth went fly-out, fly-out, groundout. Ho, hum. Nothing to see here, folks. Y’all head on home, now, ya hear?
Though, still, it must be said that the Royals had, briefly, made a game of it, following that second run they managed to plate in the fourth. Which, at the time, halved the lead to 4-2. Thing was, to the extent that scoreboards can be liars, this one was about as unreliable as Humbert Humbert (killer reference, I know). Because the Orioles could’ve — should’ve — been ahead by way, way more, by that point. In the first they’d pushed across a pair, the result of a Nate McLouth leadoff walk, an error on a ball Manny Machado bounced (inexplicably) past K.C. third baseman Mike Moustakas (who kind of stabbed at it, on the backhand, missing it completely; the ball wound up in the corner, and McLouth wound up coming all the way around to score), a Nick Markakis single that moved Machado to third, and a Chris Davis sac-fly. Matt Wieters then deposited a two-out single to center, but J.J. Hardy flied out, stranding the first two of far too many Baltimore baserunners …
The Orioles’ second look at Royal starter Wade Davis was even worse, in that respect. Henry Urrutia whacked a single through the 5/6 hole, leading things off. Brian Roberts drew a walk. McLouth singled. Woo-hoo: Heart of the order coming up with the bases juiced and nobody out. Time to break this sucker wide open. But no. Machado struck out swinging. Markakis struck out looking. And though Adam Jones smashed a bullet over the head of center fielder Lorenzo Cain, Cain somehow ran it down, lunging upward and snagging it at full stretch before falling and sliding off the outfield grass and onto the warning track. Reminded this reporter of Phil Bradley (or, fine, Jim Edmonds). If only temporarily, the play kept the Royals right in this ballgame.
Even so, it only delayed the inevitable. In their next turn at the dish the Birds would force (W.) Davis from the tilt, with (C.) Davis doinking a leadoff single into left, Wieters doubling (likewise going the other way, nearly to the wall), Hardy grounding out to second but thereby knocking in the visitors’ third run, and Urrutia (looking more and more comfortable in the role of designated hitter) slicing a ball that hit the chalk down the line in left, on which Wieters chugged around to score against a high relay from Alex Gordon. Roberts grounded out, McLouth walked, and (W.) Davis’s night was over.
The Orioles would scratch out another run in the fifth, this time off long reliever Luis Mendoza on a pair of singles (Hardy, Urrutia) and a sac-fly from Roberts, making it 5-2, but clearly, it was time for someone to put this thing beyond doubt. And, happily, it was the middle of the order that’d oblige. Markakis singled to lead off the sixth. Jones doubled, moving Nick to third. Davis saw Jones’s oppo-field drive and matched it, slashing a liner over Gordon’s head and into the left-field corner, delivering both runners. And, after Wieters pitched in with a productive groundout, advancing Davis a bag, Hardy made it all moot, and outdid everyone else, punishing a meaty 1-0 Mendoza offering with a mammoth swat into the grandstands in left-center. 9-2 …
Which is right where things would stay, with Feldman doing his thing all the way through eight and the Orioles (it must be said) failing to plate McLouth following a leadoff triple Nate slashed rattling around into the right-field corner to start the Oriole seventh. They’d go more or less quietly the rest of the way, though none of it mattered much (unless you were dying to see double digits), as so did the Royals, equally silent through the final frames, first against Feldman (who retired his final ten) and, in the ninth, Troy Patton (who made it thirteen straight Royals retired). Nice and easy: O’s pick up their fifth straight, their eighth win in the last nine overall, take the opener of four in Kansas City. Here’s hoping this is still the ascent, and not the peak …
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