Sunday, September 09, 2012

Orioles Beat Yankees Again, Lose Markakis

It was an exciting nail-biter of a game once again. The Orioles won the game 5-4 on a bang-bang double play as the potential tying run crossed home plate.  Mark Texeira dove into first base to try and beat the throw and he was called out.

Here is David Waldstein's NYT account of the call:

"The first-base umpire, Jerry Meals, had just made an incorrect call, according to both the naked eye and television replays, and instead of the Yankees completing a comeback with Chris Dickerson crossing the plate to tie the score, the game was over."

According to "the naked eye?" Whose?  Really? According to the naked eye, the umps blew several strike calls to the Yankees including one from Darren O'Day and at least one from Pedro Strop during crucial times. My naked eyes have seen the umps call a down-the-middle strike three pitch a ball that causes an Oriole pitcher to lift the next one higher into the strike zone and this has resulted in a ninth inning Yankee home run that ends up winning the game for the Giradians (e.g. Swisher against Uehara, Rodriguez against Uehara).

Let's not give the Orioles credit or frighten the multitude of pinstriped followers on the weekend.  Let's blame it on the umps. Never have I read an account of a game like this--a blatantly homer interpretation. What's more maddening is that garbage like this is not open to commentary because there is no comments section. I'm surprised the reporter didn't suggest to Girardi that he take his team of overpaid, smug and over-the-hill players and their bats, balls and gloves and go home.

Blown calls usually go in favor of the Bombers including yet another instance of Yankee fan interference earlier in the summer on Eutaw Steet.

There was no talk of the "Fighting Showalters" -- a great name for the team I heard last night -- or that Atlantic League refugee Lew Ford who hit another home run. The story did mention in the "game notes" section that we lost Markakis because of a broken thumb and there was our manager cradling Nick's head for a few seconds after the player reemerged from the dugout in a temporary cast courtesy of Richie Bancells.

I would have written about yet another electrifying victory in an incredible season and the fact that the Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia broke the thumb of Nick Markakis, putting the heart and competitive soul of our team on the Disabled List for six weeks. I don't know if he did it on purpose but he pitched inside three straight times to Nick.  Ever the competitor, Sabathia, as Markakis was shaking his thumb in pain, screamed:

"Was it a strike, Was it a strike?," or something like that. This is who the Yankees are.

It will be interesting to see what happens today or in the future. 

Oriole Hangout member "Moose Milligan" reminded me of when Yankee Tim Leary fractured the wrist of Chris Hoiles and our resilient catcher missed 51 games. That same night, a scuffing tool-kit of items fell out of Leary's glove on the mound.  

The retaliation came a few weeks later at Yankee Stadium. I was sitting nine rows behind the O's dugout. Ben McDonald pitched for the Orioles and came high and inside to catcher Matt Nokes. The ball caught his batting helmet in the corner where the bill starts to extend. It knocked the helmet off his head and high into the air and the ball's impact made an awful cracking sound. Nokes collapsed into a pile of ball, bat and dirt on the plate and lay there motionless for several minutes.

I won't be surprised at all if the Times reporters notice an "unusually hostile Oriole crowd" once again at today's game.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Orioles Blast Yankees, 10-6

I listened to the game last night while driving back from my teaching engagement in Alexandria. The Orioles had a 6-1 lead in the seventh and were in control.

I started to think ahead in the series to game two. We had this one.

The Yankees scored a run in the eighth, and then another. Suddenly it was 6-3 and they were in striking distance. We changed pitchers and brought in Pedro Strop. A wild pitch moved runners into scoring position. A walk loaded the bases. Another walk cut the lead to 6-4. ichiro singled in two more to tie the game.

The reigning heavyweight champion of the American League East had gotten up off the mat swinging. Mercifully, O'Day put an end to the uprising by getting Jeter to end the inning.

About 4 miles from the ballpark, Adam Jones homered to make it 7-6. With a thunderous roar, the crowd sounded like they do during a Ravens game.  I turned the radio up and gave a rebel yell. Then Reynolds sent a ball high into deep left with Wieters on first.  Oriole announcer Joe Angel paused as the ball landed 3 rows deep into the stands and let the crowd make the call. It was 9-6.

With the stadium in my sights, Chris Davis homered. I elected to drive by the ballpark instead of taking MLK. I beeped my horn several times as I road past. You could hear the crowd chanting and it felt like the street was shaking.

I pulled up to a light and gave a thumbs up to a guy wearing an O's cap.

"Are you listening?" He asked.  "It's unbelievable," I replied. "I'm going tomorrow night."

It's Orange Friday in Baltimore.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Buck's Guys -- Surfer Boog and McLouth -- tied with Yankees

It's September 5th and the Orioles have tied the Yankees for first place in the Division. It's not May or June--and suddenly we find ourselves in a strange position-- a pennant race.

That's right. A race that's not the Grand Prix.

This hasn't happened since 1997 when it was the Yankees who closed the gap on the Orioles lead. Not since the mid 70s has the city had a contending football and baseball team.

The Orioles crushed the Jays last night, 12-0 behind a great performance on the mound by Zach Britton. Some of my astute friends predicted this--even Yankees fans.

"Wait until Buck brings his guys in," they said.

Mark Reynolds (Surfer Boog) has come alive and so has the pesky hustler Nate McLouth. Cult heroes like Lew Ford have contributed. There has been a carefully selected procession of Buck's guys of late and they all share one trait with their manager.

They have something to prove. None have won a World Series. Guys like Jim Thome have come close--but no champagne-drenched cigar. Now they are taking out their frustrations on the American League.

Surfer Boog and his band of scrappers. When he struck out on Monday against Toronto, Reynolds threw his bat and slammed his helmet down. I haven't seen an Oriole do that in decades. Last night, Showalter glared at J.J. Hardy when he failed to take second on a throw to the plate. We were ahead 7-0.

It's the details, the little things that make you a champion.

The Bronx Bombers are coming into Camden Yards this weekend for a 4 game series.  Will the fans show up?

A lot has been written about that lately. Where are the fans? I think you will see them flock to the Yards over the next 30 days.  We just finished the Grand Prix and the kids are back in school. Judging by the plethora of orange I've seen lately, we're good for it.

Let's face it, the MASN broadcast is pretty darn good. You get a world class announcer in Gary Thorne and Buck's press conference which is one of the most entertaining three minutes of the summer for me.

The radio broadcasts are first rate too. Baseball is a great sport to imagine from a radio call.

It's expensive to live in Baltimore city. The property taxes are exorbitant-- a dear tariff on trash collection that diminishes my disposable income. The water is expensive--60% more than when I lived in Northern Virginia. I can afford to take my kids via the Dugout Club, a great bargain, but not otherwise on any kind of a regular basis and I live 12 minutes away from Eutaw Street.

I will be there this weekend.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Orioles vs. Yankees Rivalry Returns

The Orioles are in the Bronx tonight and for the first time in fifteen years, the series has meaning. Yes, that's right. It's August and the games are critical. The upstart Birds are within three games of first place.

And for me, the outcome doesn't matter. Win or lose, we are in a fight no one expected. Don't get me wrong. I want to win, at all costs--but if we don't, that's fine too.

It's all gravy from here on in.

I remember the rivalry as a kid. Yankees like Thurman Munson, Chris Chambliss, Reggie Jackson and even Roy White played well against us. Pitcher Mel Stottlemeyer was an Oriole killer. I gnawed the sticks of fudgsicles as he dismantled Oriole line-ups.

I made a sign once at Memorial Stadium--"Yankees beware, here comes Paul Blair."  My grandmother invented that line.

I went to see many Oriole vs. Yankee contests when I lived in Manhattan.  During 14 losing seasons, I watched almost all of those games as we found new ways to lose.

It's almost September and a winning season is within our grasp and so is a pennant.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

O's Awaiting Reinforcements, Beat Phils with Walk-off

Running on fumes and staying within striking distance of first place, the Orioles have gotten by with a masterful juggling of AAA talent and a refusal to collapse that exemplifies the personality of their manager, Buck Showalter.

A number of possibilities wait in the wings like the grizzled veterans emerging from the cornfields in the movie, "Field of Dreams."

The 49-year old Jamie Moyer, Miguel Tejada, Chris Tillman, and Brian Roberts could be in uniform for the Orioles in the next three weeks. Nick Markakis will return soon from a broken bone in his hand and Brian Roberts will play on Tuesday night against the Pirates. Nolan Reimold and Zach Britton are also on the road to recovery.

The Orioles beat the Red Sox twice in three games at Fenway last week and have split the first of two against the Phillies in dramatic fashion with an Adam Jones walk-off home run yesterday.  A team that strikes out a lot and makes more than its share of errors is somehow holding its own.

Starting pitching has been inconsistent of late with another Arrieta meltdown leading to a Phillies win on Friday. Jake's issues appear to be mental with a lot of fidgeting and nervousness on the mound as he faces hitters. Chen and Hammel have delivered but they have also had bad outings of late.

Guys like Miguel Gonzalez, Steve Pearce, Steve Tolleson, Ryan Flaherty, Xavier Avery, and Bill Hall have made contributions. 

I saw my first Baltimore Oriole today perched on a telephone wire at the intersection of Lake and Charles. My daughter sighted the bird from the back seat. It turned out to be a good omen.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Losing Streak Ends at 6, O's best Rays, 2-1

After a weak of losses, some short-term bad and long-term good news, the Orioles finally won a game yesterday, 2-1. It was their 30th win of the season which took six games to realize.

Nick Markakis injured his wrist this week. Starting pitching collapsed, and suddenly the Orioles looked like the teams that have strung together 14 losing seasons.

The good news outweighed the bad. Adam Jones signed a new long-term deal. Brian Roberts appears closer to making it back to baseball. Zach Britton and Nolan Reimold could also be ready soon. Nick's wrist could have been much worse.

They had no business winning yesterday. Endy Chavez hit a home run, after weeks of waving a feather bat. An error by the Rays led to another run, and Strop got out of the eighth with a big time double play.
Brian Matusz is beginning to make a case for himself as an ace of the pitching staff.

The schedule has shown us no mercy. We've played a lot of games against Tampa Bay, Boston, and Toronto to make room for inter-league play.  Eventually,  the other teams are going to decode pitching sequences, exploit weaknesses, and take their share of the games. The AL East stalwarts will do everything they can to keep the O's in the cellar. The fact is that we have been winning with unheralded young talent and appear, on paper, with much less firepower than the arsenals of our detestable foes.

Our line-up is makeshift at best and without Markakis, pitchers don't have to work as hard to get us out. On any given day, we have three or four hitters in the line-up who would be better served in the Tidewater area getting their hacks in. Adam Jones has been spectacular, but he's not a prototypical clean-up hitter.

We do have Buck Showalter--and he might be the greatest asset we've got--because he knows how to win.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Orioles beat Royals: Section 96. Row 12. Seat 14.

We're entering the part of the season when I could spend every night on Eutaw Street. Last night was no exception  as I sat in right center, at the still point of the Camden Yards universe and watched the Orioles solve Bruce Chen en route to a 8-2 win.

It was a great vantage point that allowed me to watch seeing-eye singles and doubles in the gap coming toward me.

This past week, the Birds dropped two of three to the Red Sox--but there were more important developments than wins and losses. Brian Roberts began his rehab assignment in Bowie and with the week coming to a close, various sources reported that Adam Jones had received a new contract.

Wednesday's finale against the Bosox, the end of a 20-games in 20-days stretch featured Luis Exposito (.059), Ryan Flaherty (.206) and Nick Johnson (.206) in the starting line-up. Johnson hit two home runs.

Last night, Jason Hammel pitched very well for six innings and the Orioles unlocked the secrets of Bruce Chen's wizardry in the 5th, putting up five runs to lead 6-0. In the inning, something happened I've never seen before. Avery and Andino were both caught in run downs and both somehow avoided the tag at second. Markakis doubled to the wall and Jones singled him in. Nick is swinging a hot and patient bat right now.

In the bleachers, fans heckled Royal right fielder Jeff Francoeur throughout the whole game. "Frenchy" as he is called responded with a two-run homer. It was a raucous orange-clad crowd that filled most of the stadium but not the mezzanine.

It's Memorial Day weekend and we are in first place. 11,000 walk-ups attended last night's contest. Get out to Camden Yards--there is no better place to see the game being played.
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