June 12, 2014

Game 64: Chensanity Shuts Out Red Sox

Wasting no time Wednesday night, the Orioles got off to a fast start in the first inning after being shutout 1-0 by Brandon Workman.  After Wei-Yin Chen retired the Sox in order, Baltimore struck first with an Adam Jones double down the left field line, scoring Steve Pearce as he drew a walk in the two spot.  Which means, Machado was moved down in the order to his recent "struggles". Manny has elected to appeal his suspension so he remains in the lineup but his struggles at the plate continue.  Chris Davis kept the inning going with a long fly ball to right field off of Rubby De La Rosa (phenomenal name) for his 10th home run of the season.  Plating Jones, the O's took a much need 3-0 lead as runs were very scarce throughout the first two games of the series. For Crush, this was a much needed slump buster as he's struggled during the month of June.  Davis' next at-bat sent a De La Rosa pitch deep to dead center field but was snagged on the warning track by Jackie Bradley Jr.  Although it would it was just warning track power, it's great to finally see Davis taking the ball to all fields as he was simply baffled by opposing pitchers in recent games.

Chen, who's been on a tear lately, took the mound looking to earn his team-leading seventh win of the season and got off to a great start. striking out 5 of the first 9 batters with an array of breaking pitches keeping his fastball elevated.  I've been thoroughly impressed with Wei-Yin's accuracy these past few starts and remains the hottest (pitching-wise) member of the Orioles rotation…my apologies to Mr. Bud Norris.  Chen finally allowed his first baserunner on a Pedroia single off the wall, only to be gunned down stretching it to a double by the cannon that is, Nick Markakis' left arm. The closest you could come to a perfect throw - well besides this laser beam last night.

Earlier today, Phil Hughes stifled the Blue Jays as the O's were presented with another opportunity to chip away at the division lead. Baltimore was able to take control early with an array of base hits from their entire lineup.  Nick Hundley, struggling heavily in the early of his tenure with the Orioles, singled twice in the first four innings, the latter drove in a JJ Hardy to extend the lead to 4-0.  Markakis almost squeaked across another run on an infield single but a replay challenge by John Farrell determined that Nick Hundley was indeed forced out at second.  After the close call, Chen gave up a line drive single past the shift to Big Papi, only to endure a another pop out from Mike Napoli and a tailor made double play to Jonathan Schoop to end the threat.

After stranding base runners in the bottom of 5th, Chen trotted out for the sixth inning with a shutout still in tact.  After allowing a leadoff base hit, he was able to strike out Jonathan Herrera once again and two pitches later, he got Brock Holt to ground into another opportune double play to end another threat.   His breaking ball bailed him out once again as Holt slapped at a low and away pitch to bounce into the 4-6-3 inning ender.  De La Rosa would also settle in for the remainder of his outing and would shut down the Orioles for 5.2 innings before he was relieved by Edward Mujica.  As the 7th began, the rain started to lightly fall and Dustin Pedroia once again singled off of Chen to start a potential rally.  He's been a thorn in the side of Chen during his brief career, hitting over .500 in over 25 at-bats versus the left handed pitcher.  Immediately after, Chen was amazingly able to force a third straight inning ending double play to keep the lead at 4.  Can't even express how impressed I was with Chen's outing tonight and walked a tightrope to navigate through the Red Sox lineup after dominating the early stages of the game.

After nearly 2 hours of rain delay, play finally would resume.  Didn't really mind as I was able to utilize my MLB Extra Innings subscription and catch up on action from the rest of the league.  However, Chen would be taken out for the 8th inning for Darren O'Day.  By far the best start of the season, he put his team in a position to win tonight's game and the series. Most importantly, Chen was extremely economical as he didn't issue a walk, scattered four hits and struck out seven in 7 scoreless innings.  This was all accomplished on 87 pitches, something that the Orioles desperately needed in this rubber match.  O'Day's only baserunner came on yet another throwing error by JJ Hardy.  Hardy, one of the most sure handed shortstops in the league, has had a rough June, with an inability to make routine plays he usually makes with ease.  However, O'Day was able to force three groundouts to himself to end the threat.  Darren continues his dominate season as he lowered his ERA under 1 for the season.

One Oriole that has severely cooled off is Nelson Cruz, simply being rendered helpless since the weekend of the Astros' series.  This past 10 days he's looked clueless at the dish, waving at pitches out of the strike zone and swinging through fastballs dead red.  Can't have too much complaints with Nelly as he's essentially carried our offense through the first 60 games and I know that he was bound to cool off eventually.  With a crucial 4-game series looming against Toronto, I expect Cruz to give the Blue Jays more problems.  Fortunately, he was able to add a leadoff single in the 8th as Gary Thorne threw on the patented reverse jinx (Barstool) by stating that he was hitless in his last 10 plate appearances. Chris Davis would proceed to rope a double down the first base line, picking up his second extra base hit of the ballgame.  O'a add another insurance run off an RBI walk by Schoop, putting the game out of reach.  As I write this live, I REALLY want Markakis to take Capuano deep for a grand slam.  I say this because Markakis is on the cusp of making the All-Star team and he's more than deserving to finally be elected to his first team. Top 10 in average and 3rd in hits, you really can't make any arguments against him.  Alas, Capuano walked Markakis, but he picked up another RBI.

Zach Britton would come on to pitch a perfect ninth inning to seal  the shutout and the Orioles were back in the win column, picking up another series win against a division opponent.  With Toronto coming to town, the offense will need to keep pace with one of the best in baseball.  Kevin Gausman makes another start tonight against the AL wins leader, Mark Buerhle. Gausman coming off his first career victory in the rotation will look to build off the success of last Saturday.

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