May 25, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Baltimore Orioles designated hitter Nelson Cruz (23) is safe at home on a one-run RBI double by first baseman Steve Pearce (not shown) as Cleveland Indians catcher Carlos Santana (41) cannot hold onto the ball in the third inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports

Baltimore Orioles: Sunday Win, Hitting the Road Again

The Baltimore Orioles have often had a pattern over the past 10-20 years of losing an unusual majority of Sunday games. It was almost like some sort of religious quirk about playing on Sunday!

But yesterday the Orioles put together a very fine all-around game and defeated the Indians 4-2.

A criticism of the Baltimore Orioles of 2014 has been about inconsistent play and not putting together the pitching and hitting at the same time. So the flow of the game on Sunday was especially encouraging to O’s fans … to see fairly solid pitching supported by some critical hits and aggressive base running, etc.

Miguel Gonzalez will never be a dominant pitcher, but he has some very plus pitches when they are working well and he is commanding the ball on the edges of the plate. He needs the catcher to frame pitches well and to get into a rhythm with the umpire’s strike zone du jour. On the latter point, even Buck Showalter commented after the game that there was an “interesting strike zone today.” It did float around a bit. Nick Markakis surely drove home fuming about the random strike zone and being rung up a couple of times on sketchy calls.

But Gonzalez settled down after allowing two first-inning runs, pitching six innings and giving up only four hits, though he would walk four and hit a batter.

Some very nice and aggressive base running by Steve Pearce and Nelson Cruz helped the Orioles claw out two tying runs, setting up game-winning home runs in the fifth inning by Manny Machado and Cruz (his 16th). Pearce had three hits on the day and is now batting .333.

The bullpen contribution of an inning each from Preston Guilmet, Brian Matusz, and Zach Britton only allowed one hit (in the eighth inning) and preserved the victory. Britton was especially sharp and took to the mound with an aggressive “I’m in your face and coming after you” demeanor that was great to see. Has anyone else EVER seen a 97-mph sinker like he is throwing right now?

TRADE – Patton for Hundley

The Baltimore Orioles secured the services of a veteran catcher over the weekend by trading reliever Troy Patton for Nick Hundley. I certainly applaud this move. Patton was a nice piece in the bullpen and has been worth his salt over multiple years since coming to the O’s for Miguel Tejada. But “stuff” has happened off the field, while his “stuff” on the mound has been marginal. He was not as effective in 2013 and has had several very rough recent outings where there was nothing deceptive about his pitching. The off-field issue and suspension was not helpful, and I’ve always wondered if he fits well in this clubhouse with what he presents as an aloof personality … and I could be entirely wrong on that final point.

There is no doubt from remarks by former Padres teammates Brad Brach and Evan Meek that Hundley will fit well on this team. They describe him as a strong people person and a very “intense” player – gotta like hearing that.

He is currently hitting .271, though again, this is not a selection to provide offensive punch. He did hit .288 in 82 games in 2011. His career average is .238 over a total of 510 games. And he does have some power potential that may play better in Baltimore than in San Diego.

Does this move tip off a belief (either known or feared) that Matt Wieters is headed for ligament surgery? Dan Duquette is the ultimate poker face about such things, but I really do not think on this occasion that a certain loss is pending. It is simply that the percentage chance of that is sufficiently high enough to seek out greater catching depth.

Monday’s Memorial Day Game

The Baltimore Orioles find themselves today in Milwaukee to open a 10-game road trip. The rare nature of playing the Brewers was simply brought home to me in the previous sentence where I had to check my accuracy of spelling “Milwaukee.”  It is something I don’t do or write about – never been there, and when do the Orioles ever play these guys? Apparently not since 2008.

The Birds will be facing a very tough customer in Kyle Lohse who is 6-1 over his 10 starts with an ERA of 2.67 and WHIP of 1.05.  He has already thrown 67.1 innings this year; he gives up something in every start, though never very much. His history against the Orioles is with his original team, the Twins, and is now a decade old and largely irrelevant.

The Orioles will send either Jekyll or Hyde to pitch today. Will it be the Chris Tillman of the three-hit complete-game shutout, or the person who could not get more than three outs in his most recent start? He does not have to be the former, though the Orioles cannot bear the latter. I’m not sure if God even knows which one will show up!  Actually, I’m not uncertain about that, though it seemed like a good sentence for this paragraph.

Game time is 2:10.

Tags: Baltimore Orioles Miguel Gonzalez Nick Hundley

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