The first week of the Orioles’ 2009 baseball season has been an exciting one, to say the least. The Birds are now 3-1, as they have defeated the jewels of the American League East, New York and Tampa Bay. These wins did not come easy, though; however, we will take them any way we can. Let’s look back at the first four matchups of the year.
Image Courtesy of the Associated Press
Opening Day: O’s beat Yankees 10-5
What a grand Opening Day it was in Baltimore. The odds were surely against the Birds as the Yankees sent newly acquired ace CC Sabathia to the mound against Jeremy Guthrie, but the O’s shocked the baseball world. The offense looked alive as they murdered Sabathia. He gave up 6 earned runs, 5 walks, and no strikeouts in only 4.2 innings of work, a sickening sign for many Yanks’ fanatics. On the other hand, Guthrie impressed. He went six innings, giving up three earned runs, three walks, and recording three strikeouts as he earned his first “W” of the 2009 season.
The real story in this game, though, was the offense. The top-3 in the O’s lineup was solid, as Roberts had three hits, Jones hit a booming 2-run triple, and Markakis finished with a .500 average. Moving down the lineup, Cesar Izturis drilled a two-run homer in the eighth, followed by a bases loaded double by Aubrey Huff that sealed the deal.
Game 2: O’s beat Yankees 7-5
The long awaited debut of Japanese native Koji Uehara made this game exciting from the start, and the final outcome only made it better. Koji faced off against the Yankees’ Chien-Ming Wang, who went 3.2 innings, giving up seven earned runs and three walks. Uehara proved why he was such a valuable acquisition. The 34-year old went five innings, giving up one earned run and one walk. He would receive his first win of his MLB career.
On another note, the O’s offense broke out for the second game in a row. The top-3 hitters once again shined, going 5-10 with four of the team’s seven RBI. Staying with the top of the lineup, Nick Markakis bombed his first homerun of the ‘09 season, as he drove a towering shot over the right field wall. After two games, Orioles’ starters were 2-0, a stat that was unexpected by many analysts. One concern was the bullpen, as Matt Albers and Dennis Sarfate surrendered four earned runs, yet Danys Baez pitched two scoreless and George Sherrill (A.K.A. “Flat Breezy”) threw in the ninth to record his first save of the year.
Game 3: Yankees beat Orioles 11-2
The fun in Baltimore ended with a “bang”, but not in a good way. Alfredo Simon made his season debut for the Birds, going five innings, surrendering four earned runs, two walks, and recording three strikeouts as he took the loss. The O’s faced off against Baltimore-native A.J. Burnett, who dominated in 5.1 innings of work. He gave up two earned runs, with one walk and six strikeouts. The O’s offense was silenced, with the only production coming off the bat of Luke Scott, who connected for his first homer of the season.
Once again, the bullpen struggled. Brian Bass came in to relieve Simon in the sixth, only to see his chances of staying with the big league club slowly crossing the plate. He gave up three earned runs, and Chris Ray didn’t fare much better. Ray came into the ninth, only to surrender two earned runs. It was a rough day for the Birds, and they needed to rebound against the Rays in the next series.
Game 4: Orioles beat Rays 5-4
Speaking of rebounds, how about the O’s going in against the reigning AL Champions and getting a victory? Mark Hendrickson made his first start with the Orioles, going 5.1 innings, giving up one earned run, two walks, and recording two strikeouts as he picked up his first win of the season. Like in Game 2, Baez came into the game and dominated. He went 1.2 innings and struck out four of the five batters he faced. Jim Johnson relieved him in the eighth, and Evan Longoria took advantage of it. The youngster launched his second homerun of the contest, slicing the O’s lead in half. George Sherrill would come in for the save in the ninth, when he struck out the side, but not before surrendering a one-out homer to catcher Dioner Navarro.
The O’s offense was on and off, scoring runs in both the first and fifth innings. The top-3 were impressive once again, as Roberts and Jones both finished 2-4, and Nick Markakis drove in a run with an RBI single into right field. The main man with the bat was Melvin Mora, who had three RBI on the day. The O’s go into game two of the series on Saturday as Jeremy Guthrie faces off against Rays’ rookie Jeff Niemann.