Talking Behind Their Back: Blue Jays
Update: The Orioles have in fact optioned reliever Chris Ray to Class AAA Norfolk to make way for David Hernandez. You may proceed...
It's amazing how one series and a series of announced roster moves can change your whole perspective about a team, isn't it?
The Orioles finally got their first three-game sweep of the season by wiping away the struggling Blue Jays -- Baltimore's first sweep of Toronto since 1994. The Blue Jays, in turn, limp back across the border after going winless on a nine-game road trip.
The Orioles benefited from good starting pitching in the first two games of the series and then used a little "Orioles Magic" in the Wednesday afternoon finale.
In Game 1, Jeremy Guthrie gave up one run over seven innings to outduel Toronto's Brian Tallet (six innings, two runs) in a 4-1 Baltimore win.
Tuesday night's Game 2 featured the big league debut of Jason Berken who picked up his first win, behind a two-run, seven-inning performance that happened before the smallest crowd in Camden Yards history, but still ended with a shaving cream pie in the face.
Game 3 was a different beast altogether as Baltimore rallied twice to get the victory thanks to Nolan Reimold's walk-off three-run homer in the 11th inning -- and yet another shaving cream pie in the face.
As satisfying as this series may have been for Orioles fans, it's possible that things could only be getting better this weekend with the Tigers coming to town.
By now, everyone knows that Matt Wieters will be making his highly anticipated major league debut and will be catching Brad Bergesen. Wieters's debut, coupled with discount student tickets and a postgame fireworks display, should erase Tuesday night's slightly depressing turnout with the crowd possibly rivaling that of a game against the Yankees or Red Sox.
As of right now, no corresponding roster move has been made to bring in Wieters, but Manager Dave Trembley has said the team will not carry three catchers so we may have seen the last of Chad Moeller in an Orioles uniform.
A debut happening even sooner is that of pitcher David Hernandez. Hernandez was scratched from his Wednesday night start for Class AAA Norfolk and Trembley, when asked who his starter for today would be responded, "the guy who struck out 14 the other night." Hey, what do you know, in his last start for the Tides, Hernandez struck out 14 against Rochester. Hernandez has struck out an impressive 60 batters to go with just 13 walks in 43 1/3 innings in the minors this year.
Of course this also will require a roster move. Luke Scott's return coincided with Koji Uehara being placed on the disabled list with a strained hamstring. Wieters is in, Moeller is out. But who's leaving in favor of Hernandez?
The team could demote reliever Chris Ray who has looked nothing like the pitcher the team saw in Spring Training as he has an ERA over 10 in 17 appearances. In keeping with relief candidates, Matt Albers could again be shuttled to Norfolk. The Orioles could also end the Felix Pie experiment but he's shown signs of life lately and the team would need him to clear waivers before landing in the minors. It won't be an easy decision but clearly at some point today the Orioles will make the call.
Of course, just because there's excitement in The Warehouse, that doesn't mean wins are right around the corner.
Though the team is riding high after winning five of its last six, the Orioles must now play host to the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers.
The pitching matchups should break down like this:
David Hernandez vs. Armando Galarraga
Brad Bergesen vs. Dontrelle Willis
Jeremy Guthrie vs. Justin Verlander
Jason Berken vs. Edwin Jackson
I see the Orioles being capable of taking the first two games. Armando Galarraga has given up at least four runs in each of his five starts this month. Dontrelle Willis is finally looking like the pitcher Detroit traded for two years ago, having pitched into the seventh in consecutive starts for the Tigers but remains hittable.
Justin Verlander is pitching more like the 2007 model (18-6, 3.66 ERA) than the 2008 model (11-17, 4.84 ERA) and is already more than halfway to his strikeout total of last year (165), having punched out a major league-leading 85 already this season. So yeah, I'm giving him the advantage there in the Saturday showdown of aces.
Former Tampa Bay pitcher Edwin Jackson I see being a push. Jackson is finally starting to cash in on his potential and has a 2-1 record as a starting pitcher against the Orioles but has allowed a combined 15 runs in those three starts. Has he finally figured it out? I don't know, but I think he gets the win in the series finale as the two teams close out Wieters Weekend with a split.
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