Orioles Fail to Prove They Can Hang with the Big Dogs in the American League
The Baltimore Orioles (20-12) were coming off of a great road trip in which they won five of six contests in New York and Boston and the Birds were in high spirits until the best team in the majors, the Texas Rangers, visited Camden Yards for the first time this week.
The Rangers landed in Baltimore on Monday and immediately proved why they are the defending American League Champions two years running as they took three of four games.
They exploded with 14 runs in the first game and they put up a 10 spot in game two. The Birds were able to overcome the Rangers in game three, however they almost blew a 6-1 lead as they barely held on and skated by 6-5. Texas took game four and the series, 7-3.
The western division leaders proved they can swing for the fences and run up the score board (Josh Hamilton smashed four home runs in game two); and at the same time, they can compete in the close games. Either way, their pitching was solid for the most part, with the exception of game three.
Game 1- Rangers 14, Orioles 3
The Orioles and the Rangers both came into the first game of the series as the first-place team in their respective divisions and the same 19-10 record; it seemed like this would be an exciting match-up of division rivals, and maybe a possible postseason affair.
However, that was not the case.
Former Orioles’ number one pick from the 2005 MLB draft, Brandon Snyder, set a career-high with six RBI against his former team; he smashed a three run home run in the 6th inning, and also drove in three RBI on two singles.
The Rangers’ offense dominated the game; they collected 19 base hits, and seven of the nine starters recorded at least two hits. Elvis Andrus, Nelson Cruz and Snyder all recorded three hits each.
Tough-luck southpaw Brian Matusz (1-4, 5.91 ERA) toed the hill for the Orioles, and after a couple of rejuvenating and strong starts, again he slipped. He tossed five innings, allowed seven earned runs on 10 base hits in his worst outing of the season.
Over his previous two starts, he pitched 12.1 innings, allowed just one earned run on 10 base hits.
As for the Orioles’ offense, they managed to score just three runs on two home runs against Matt Harrison (4-2, 5.11 ERA). Robert Andino got the Orioles on the board with his third home run of the season in the 6th inning, and Wilson Betemit drove in two RBI on his fourth long shot of the year.
Harrison tossed seven strong innings, allowed just three earned runs on six base hits for his fourth win of the season.
Game 2- Rangers 10, Orioles 3
Game two was all about Hamilton and his impressive, history-making four-home run game. He became the 16th MLB player, only the 6th American League player and the first since Carlos Delgado when he was with the Jays in 2003 to accomplish this feat.
He was all the offense Neftali Feliz (2-1, 3.38 ERA) and the Rangers would need against the Birds. Again, the Birds were only able to put up three runs; J.J. Hardy (7) and Nick Markakis (4) delivered back-to-back home runs in the 8 th inning, however, it was already too late and out of reach.
The Birds’ ace Jake Arrieta (2-3, 4.23 ERA) took the hill in search of his third win of the year, but could not find his stuff; he lasted 6.1 innings, however, he surrendered six earned runs on nine base hits.
Feliz tossed an impressive six innings of work, allowed just one earned run on four base hits, while he recorded eight strike outs.
Not only did he set a career-high with four home runs and eight RBI in a single game, Hamilton finished with 18 total bases, which set a new American League 9-inning game record.
Game 3- Orioles 6, Rangers 5
Game three of the four game set was supposed to happen on Wednesday night, but was delayed due to the rain pounding down on the inner harbor. Instead, the teams geared up for a double header on Thursday afternoon.
The first of the DH started at 4pm, and the Rangers sent Colby Lewis to the hill, while the Birds countered with one of their stronger starters, Wei-Yin Chen (3-0, 2.68 ERA). The Bird’ starter tossed an impressive 7.2 innings, allowed just two earned runs on six base hits and five strike outs.
However, the storyline came in the very first inning. The Birds first three hitters, Ryan Flaherty, Hardy and Markakis, each connected for a solo home run, getting them off to a quick 3-0 start as they set an AL record with three consecutive first inning home runs.
Lewis (3-2, 3.69 ERA) drastically changed his composure and retired the next 18 hitters in a row until Adam Jones launched his 9 th home run of the season to lead off the 7th inning. Wilson Betemit added his 5 th home run, which was a two-run shot, to cap a 6-1 lead.
The Birds only collected five base hits all game long, and each of them was a home run; the last time they hit five home runs in a single game was on June 30th, 2010 against the Oakland Athletics. They were also able to snap a seven game-losing streak against the Rangers.
Game 4- Rangers 7, Orioles 3
The Orioles recalled Tommy Hunter (2-2, 5.14 ERA) from AAA, and it was another forgettable performance; he tossed six innings, and allowed four earned runs on five base hits, while striking out seven.
Derek Holland (3-2, 3.86 ERA) picked up his third win of the season after he tossed six innings, allowed three runs, none were earned, on four base hits. The Rangers’ pen finished the remaining three innings and allowed just one hit over the stretch.
The Birds, for the third time in the series, were limited to just three runs. For the first time, they failed to connect for a home run; they took a brief lead in the 2nd inning after scoring three unearned runs against Holland.
Hamilton smashed his major-league leading 15th home run of the season.
They Orioles’ starting pitchers struggled this series as Matusz allowed seven earned runs, Arrieta surrendered six and Hunter gave up four. Chen was the only starter who pitched well (one earned run). Collectively, they tossed 25 innings and allowed 18 earned runs (6.48 ERA).
Yes, the offense struggled to score runs, but the Birds major struggle this series was their pitching. Their team ERA was hovering around three even before the start of the Rangers series, and currently, it sits at 3.35, which still ranks them second in the league.
The Birds begin a three game set with the Tampa Bay Rays tonight at Camden Yards. Tonight’s match-up will feature Jeremy Hellickson for the Rays and Dana Eveland for the Birds.
By: Alex Van Rees
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