Take a good look at these standings….
New York 2-1
Tampa Bay 0-3
It didn’t take Long for the Orioles to give the AL a taste of what baseball will look like in Baltimore this year. They swept the 2010 division champions, in Tampa, and allowed only three runs in the process.
This first series was all about pitching. The Orioles got outstanding starts from Jeremy Guthrie, Chris Tillman, and Zach “Great” Britton. Guthrie tossed eight efficient innings, Tillman threw six no-hit innings, and Britton dealt six innings of one-run baseball. The bullpen was solid, but unspectacular, holding each lead it was given.
Offensively, Brian Roberts was the hero in the first two games. His 2-RBI triple on Friday night broke open a 1-1 tie and gave the O’s a lead they would never give back. The next day, under similar circumstances, Roberts launched a letter-high fastball into the seats for a 3-run homer, and again, broke a tie ball game and gave the Orioles a decisive lead. Sunday’s offense was keyed by Mark Reynolds and J.J. Hardy, who drove in three 7th inning runs to give Baltimore the victory.
Game One Notes
-Vlad Guerrero singled in his first Orioles at-bat.
-David Price struck out seven O’s in seven innings.
-J.J. Hardy made a spinning, 360 degree catch and throw of a ManRam groundball in the 7th inning.
-The Orioles got the benefit of a blown umpire call in the 8th, when the umpires failed to call Hardy for obstruction on B.J. Upton during a rundown play. Hardy knew he had gotten in Upton’s way, and slapped his glove in disgust, but the call wasn’t made.
Game Two Notes
-Tillman left the game with a no-hitter intact.
-Of Tillman’s six Ks, three came on elevated fastballs, a pitch he will need to throw often if he’s going to succeed with his straight 4-seam fastball.
-James Shields started for the Rays, and his changeup was looking nasty. He might be in line for a bounce-back season.
-Kevin Gregg made his first save chance a scary one by nearly allowing a walk-off three-run homer. Nick Markakis saved the day by making a leaping catch against the wall to end the game. In Gregg’s defense, he was hurt by a very poor call at first base on the back end of a double play attempt, which allowed the winning run to eventually step to the plate.
Game Three Notes
-Zach “Great” Britton made his first career MLB start. He took the mound with a 1-0 lead, thanks to an RBI single by Matt Wieters in the top of the 1st.
-Rays leftfielder, Sam Fuld, made two highlight reel defensive plays. After stumbling over the bullpen mound in foul territory, Fuld made a sliding, reaching, tumbling catch of a Nick Markakis pop-up. He also ended the 7th inning by gunning out J.J. Hardy at home plate.
-Jason Berken struck out the side in the 7th inning.
All the signs are pointing to a great season, but can it really last? Can the O’s play this well all summer? Were the Rays just flat to start the season?
To answer my own questions, no, it can’t be this good all year. The pitchers will struggle. There will be ups and downs, and injuries. And yes, the Rays looked like they weren’t ready for real competition just yet. I’m still betting on a .500 season.
Showalter is in charge though, and he has this team confident.
About the Author
Written by Sven Jenkins
My name is Sven Jenkins, and I’m an independent baseball analyst from Poughkeepsie, NY. I own 60ft6in.com and do freelance work for STATS Inc. In the past, I've done research for the St. Louis Cardinals and worked one season with Baseball Info Solutions in 2007. I have also spent many nights as an official scorer in the minor leagues and played NCAA D-III baseball at SUNY New Paltz. In the off-season I travel the world, having enjoyed over 1,100 days on the road through 40 different countries. You can email me at: jenkins AT 60ft6in DOT com.