The old saying in baseball is that a team's momentum is only as good as the next day's starting pitcher. The O's leave Tampa with having built momentum each day through outstanding starting pitching, today's major league debut of Zach Britton being the latest example.
After beating the Rays 5-1 today, the Orioles will return to Baltimore for the 2011 home opener with a quick 3 game lead on both Tampa and Boston. 159 games remaining, but there was a lot to like about this weekend series.
1) Smart decision from Roberts to tag up on the Fuld catch in the top of the 1st.
2) Reynolds started Britton's major league career on the right note with a strong defensive play.
3) In the 2nd inning, Britton punched out Rodriguez with the power sinker away, and followed that up with a 86 mph slider to Johnson. Filthy stuff from the young O's lefty. After getting himself into trouble in the 3rd, Britton did a good job of coming back to K Zobrist and limit the damage. 6 ip, 3 hits, 1 er, 3 bb's, 6 k's is a pretty nice looking line for a major league debut.
4) Markakis did well to get a forceout at 2nd after a ball fell in between himself and Roberts.
5) Wieters had a quick release and strong throw to get out Upton on the Rays' double-steal attempt in the 3rd.
6) Jones got his first two hits on the season. We talked about his hustle last night; today he his a squib shot in the 9th. Just by running hard (and with his speed), he forced Rodriguez to try and barehand the ball. Rodriguez could not come up with it, and Jones found himself with 1st with a hit that will look as good as a liner in the box score. Also liked him stealing 2nd (though he would have been out if Johnson had held on).
7) The new left side of the O's infield (Reynolds and Hardy) both came up with doubles to knock in runs in the 7th. In the 9th Reynolds smashed a ball down the line to knock in Jones.
8) The Orioles leave Tampa with their 3 starters (Guthrie, Tillman, Britton) teaming to go a combined 20 innings, allowing 1 er, 6 hits, 7 bb's, with 17 k's. What a start to the year, and there's some pressure on Arrieta to continue that run in the home opener tomorrow.
9) I wondered all winter if Jason Berken would really be physically ready for the start of spring. Was really happy to see that he was. Striking out the side in his season debut was a good beginning to his year.
10) Everyone in the lineup outside of Lee and Guerrero had at least one hit.
11) After allowing a HR to Zobrist on his 1st pitch of '11 Friday night, Johnson calmed down and completed the inning. He had a good inning today in the 8th.
12) Pie had a good team at-bat in the 9th, making sure to advance Reynolds over to 3rd.
1) After finishing the 2nd strong, Britton walked back-to-back runners to start the bottom of the 3rd. He further complicated things by not getting the ball out of his hands on the Elliot Johnson bunt.
2) I like being aggressive on the basepaths and forcing opposing teams to make plays. With a 3 run lead, I understand why the O's sent Hardy to challenge Fuld's arm in LF. I dislike that decision though. With Lee coming up next, I would have liked him to have the chance to bat with runners on as opposed to forcing the issue at home.
3) The Tampa carpet tore Reynolds up for an error in the 9th.
None. This Opening Series in Tampa went as well as an initial 3 games can go.
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