Friday, October 31st, 2014

Long ball powers O’s past Red Sox in series opener

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Just as they’ve done all season, the Orioles once again made their living on the back of the long ball last night, using home runs to take the first game of the three-game set from the Boston Red Sox.

Omar Quintanila got things started in the bottom of the third with a solo shot off Boston starter Josh Beckett. Amazingly, it was Quintanila’s third Orioles home run in only 68 at bats, after he had managed only three home runs over his previous 592 ABs in the majors (h/t @Britt_Ghiroli).

It just goes to show that, if you’re a member of the 2012 O’s, you’re going to be predisposed to the long ball.

One Oriole who has been just the opposite of Quintanila though – that is, quite disappointing in his home run production this season – is Mark Reynolds. Reynolds hit 37 dingers for the Birds in 2011, and hasn’t hit fewer than 28 in a season since his rookie year back in 2007. This year has been quite a struggle for “The Sheriff” though, as he entered last night’s contest with only nine home runs all year.

However, in a show of power that O’s fans can only hope is a sign of things to come, Reynolds put up his first tw0-home run game of 2012, hitting a solo shot just over the right field wall in the bottom of the fifth and then launching a 3-run bomb in his next AB in the sixth.

Reynolds’ second home run came on the first pitch from Boston reliever Mark Melancon, who replaced Beckett with the Birds leading 4-1 in the bottom of the sixth. That is a notable piece of information because Reynolds’ prior two-HR performance, in September 2011, also came against the Red Sox, with both bombs at the expense of Beckett.

The 7-1 lead was more than enough for Wei-Yin Chen, who bounced back from a loss in his previous start against Kansas City. Chen got into a few jams against the Sox lineup, but time and again managed to escape with little-to-no damage. His final line was 6 IP 9 H 1 ER 1 BB 4 K, improving his record on the year to 11-7, and lowering his ERA to 3.70.

With the win, the O’s guaranteed themselves a winning record on this 10-game homestand. However, with two games remaining, a 6-4 record would have to be considered a disappointment. Baltimore needs to keep their foot on the gas and win this series against Boston, as doing so would result in a 7-3 or even 8-2 homestand, which is exactly what the doctor ordered¬†for continued contention.

At 63-53, the O’s are back to 10 games above .500 for the first time since they were 41-31 on June 24. They are tied with Tampa both for second place in the AL East, six games back of the Yankees, as well as at the top of the Wild Card standings, with both teams 1.5 games up on Oakland and Detroit, and 2.5 up on the LA Angels.

Tonight’s starters are Miguel Gonzalez (4-2, 3.42), who has allowed just one run over his previous two starts spanning 15 total innings, and Aaron Cook (3-5, 4.70). Cook had lost his previous four decisions before giving up just one run over seven innings against the Texas Rangers on August 6.

Let’s go Birds – take the series tonight.

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