Friday, May 13, 2011

O's Sweep Mariners

Easy there, fellas. That's JJ Hardy.

The Orioles appear to be alternating between hot and cold this season with no cool setting on the clubhouse thermostat. After losing 6 of their last 7, including suffering a home sweep at the hands of the Rays, the Orioles swept the Mariners in a wacky series that featured two come-from-behind wins in extra innings and another win coming from a David and Goliath situation.

On Tuesday night, the O's won a crazy game in 14 innings, which involved so many outs at the plate they should put a swinging guillotine in front of it. The most memorable out was JJ Hardy, who was waved around third by O's 3B coach John Russell and thrown out by at least 45 feet. Hardy didn't bother sliding or colliding with the Mariner's catcher, and that's probably a good thing since he probably would have injured himself again. Leads changed at the drop of a dime. But the Orioles pulled it out, thanks to Matt Wieters blooping a base hit into shallow center field with two outs, scoring a very animated Felix Pie who nearly cold-cocked the home plate umpire with a pumped fist.

On Wednesday, the Orioles faced a tough task with 2010 Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez on the mound. Meanwhile, Chris Tillman, fresh off his horrendous start in Kansas City where he lasted 3.2 innings, giving up 10 hits and 8 runs, was pitching for the O's. That's a game the O's lose 9 times out of 10. But they battled Hernandez, making him throw a lot of pitching and getting him out of the game pretty early. And Tillman bounced back in a big way, allowing 1 run in 6 IP in the win, despite throwing his normal 100 pitches to get through 6 innings.

And last night, the Orioles won an exciting pitcher's duel featuring both Jason Vargas and Zach Britton pitching 9 innings of shutout baseball. Britton allowed just 3 hits, all singles, in his 9 innings of work. The Mariners got the game's first run in the 12th, but the Orioles were able to take advantage of Mariners' closer Brandon League for the second time in the series. Derrek Lee started off the inning with a single. Then League drilled Guerrero in the middle of the back. Then League's fastball clipped Jones' leg loading the bases. The next batter, Matt Wieters (looking to earn the second game winning hit of the series), lined out on a play that could have very well doubled up Jake Fox at second, who was running for Guerrero. The next batter was JJ Hardy, who was red hot since coming back from injury, and he lined a ball straight up the middle that was able to score Lee and Fox for the winning runs.

The post game celebration was fun to watch, as the players stormed Hardy on the infield while Buck Showalter stood by the dugout and looked on like a proud father, unable to hold back a smile. The image was reminiscent to the end of a sports movie. It's a shame that the season is filled with so many ups and downs and that image of Buck standing there, proud of his team, is bound to get lost in the remainder of the season.

But will the Orioles be able to continue the celebration? Was that win and celebration the turning point for the 2011 season?

The O's travel back to Tampa to face the Rays again, just three games since they last played. So which Orioles team will show up? The one that was swept? Or the one that does the sweeping?

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