Monday, April 30, 2012

Birds Have Banner Week

Driving home from the Greektown reading series on Eastern avenue last Thursday night, I was listening to the Orioles and the Jays. I stole glimpses of the game between readers at the Habanero Grill where I was serving as the emcee for Michael Hill, Gail Rosen, Chris Corbett, Ann LoLordo and Raffi Joe, an Armenian bluesman. It was a great evening for poetry, prose, stories and a form of music called Gypsy Zest--but the Orioles remained locked in a 2-2 tie with the Jays.

The store fronts rolled past -- Epstein's, Bolewicki's and Matthew's pizzeria where my mother dined as a little girl. The Orioles jacked two home runs within minutes of each other in the bottom of the eighth to break the tie, one from Adam Jones before the radio broadcasters could return from the station break and another two-run shot from Chris Davis to take a 5-2 lead.

When Buck Showalter managed the Yankees in the early nineties, they became known for taking a lead in the eighth and shutting opponents down in the ninth. They did it numerous times and the Orioles experienced it as well. This is how you win games in the big leagues. Stay close, and then shut it down.

I started the week in the stands watching Tommy Hunter beat the Jays on Tuesday night with some publisher friends in town for a meeting. It was cold and the pace was brisk. Batting left-handed, Matt Wieters clubbed an opposite field fly toward the left field foul pole. The ball deflected off the left fielder's glove into the stands for the difference in the game. We had just been talking about whether this was going to be his year.

My colleague Donna grew up in Baltimore and had attended every Oriole home game at the old Memorial Stadium. Her dad dove her to the games from Randallstown. She now lives in Nebraska and runs a publishing house that just published a book on the 1970 Orioles.

The A's won one on Friday night, 5-2 but the Orioles crushed them on Saturday night with a mighty barrage of singles, 10-1. The Orioles had just unveiled a new sculpture of Frank Robinson and he was on hand. "Baltimore will always have a special place in my heart," he said to the TV announcers.

On Sunday, I took the kids to Meadowood park where Quinn could ride his bike and Julia could try out her new skates. It was an amazing day. Area youth lacrosse players contended on four different fields. I had my transistor radio, just like the old days. Bartolo Colon held the Orioles scoreless through 8 innings with a mean, tailing fastball. Hardy started the ninth with the O's down 2-0 and sent a grounder toward center field. He beat the throw and Jones did as well with Colon throwing wildly to first. With one down, and runners on second and third, Wieters sent one over the left fielder's head, tying the score. After a walk to Chris Davis, Wilson Betemit sent a long fly ball into right center. "It's way back, way way back, way way way back and it's outta here!" 

For me, this week tracks back to the last game of the season last year against the Red Sox.  With two outs and two strikes on Nolan Reimold and the Red Sox in front, the Orioles have become a different team since that moment.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Orioles Mount Legendary Comeback, Beat Chisox, 10-4

Down 4-1 to the White Sox and two runs in the ninth, the O's crush two home runs to tie it and are up six runs in the tenth after a Wieters grand slam. The night was typified by a dismal defensive showing for the first seven innings. A solid start by Arrieta was wasted and many opportunities to score early on squandered--it was a microcosm of 14 losing seasons. It may as well have been the Hockey playoffs in the O's infield tonight with deflections bouncing everywhere. But it was Nolan Reimold, resembling his 2011 game #162 performance jacking one out in the ninth to bring us to 4-3. Then Jones with two outs drilled a rocket to deep center field to tie it. Strop shut down the Sox and the White Sox center fielder forgot to catch a deep fly by Mark Reynolds. Davis follows with an opposite field double and we take the lead. This could be an interesting year. Stop strikes out the side in the 10th.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Orioles lose 5-4 in game #5 to Yankees

The Orioles are a spirited 3-2 in 2012 and its too early to tell what we are going to see long-term but there is energy and enthusiasm around this team after a 3-0 start. Last night, they lost 5-4 to the Yankees in 12 innings--a game they've played at least 25 times over the last 14 seasons. They squandered opportunities and the Yankees waited patiently until the O's beat themselves. In all fairness, the Yankees are the best team in baseball by a wide margin and many have picked them to win it all. Girardi may be the best manager in baseball and the Orioles are not yet a worthy opponent. They fought last night but they have lost to NY the same way many times like a mouse succumbs to a boa constrictor. It's the same outcome. The snake has the mouse right where it wants it. There's a waiting period and then its over. Their effort last night was good enough to beat a lot of teams in the big leagues, just not New York. They handled Rodriguez and others, but when it counted, an old nemesis made them pay. Raul Ibanez clobbered a Pedro Strop mistake in the 12th, over the head of right fielder Nick Markakis. At age 39, Ibanez resembles a breed of dinosaur that belongs in the Museum of Natural History, and may still be able to hit the Orioles well into retirement. He has destroyed the Birds over his career and continues to do so. In the end, we couldn't get him out. The Yankees have perfected beating the Orioles in this fashion for the last 14 years. Something always happens, a runner falls down going around third or is unable to go from first to third on a single to right, a misjudged foul ball, a could have done, but didn't. Runners are left on base by the bushel and the job just can't ever seem to get done. It's early in the season yet, but more than a decade of losing the same way over and over to the same team is painful.
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