The Orioles scheduled an early series against Chicago this year, so down I went for my annual visit to US Cellular. Every ballpark should, like US Cell, have an elote stand.
Now to baseball!
Even when it looked like the Orioles were going to lose this game, thanks to defensive malfeasance and a lack of timely hitting, I was pretty happy about it. Because one win or loss against the White Sox matters much less to the team’s future than the quality of the young starting pitchers. And Jake Arrieta looked great last night. He kept the ball down, worked fast, hit his spots, and got ground balls when he needed them; apart from Pierzinski’s home run and Konerko’s double, nobody hit the ball hard against him. It’s only three starts, but he’s quietly turning in top-tier performance game after game.
But I was even happier when the Orioles came back and won! Assorted notes:
- Nick Johnson, 0-for-the-season so far, looked helpless and paralyzed at the plate. Finally Showalter pinch-hit for him with backup catcher Ronny Paulino. Paulino somehow has 7 hits in 13 trips, but this at-bat was seriously the worst I’ve seen since I saw Daniel Cabrera try to hit. Paulino struck out on a pitch that bounced in front of him. He swung at it as if the ball was a snake biting his ankle and he was panickedly trying to crush its head.
- J.J. Hardy is sporting something like a soul patch, but with much more volume, that I can only call a “soul tuft.”
- Nolan Reimold made a running catch of a foul pop in medium left field, after which his momentum carried him over the thigh-high wall into the stands, while the runner from third tagged and scored. Should he have just let it drop? Probably; but my guess is that Reimold just assumed there’d be an actual wall there to block him after the catch. Good play for the highlight reel as long as they don’t show the run scoring uncontested.
- I loved what I saw of Pedro Strop, who was hitting 97 and mixing it up with mystifying off-speed stuff. But given my similarly optimistic assessment of Kam Mickolio I think it’s better not to make too confident a judgment of a reliever based on seeing him once.
- And now let us praise Matt Wieters. Matt Wieters! A solo homer to the right-field corner in the 8th to make it 4-2 and bring the game back within reach. And then, in the 10th, Wieters comes up with the bases loaded and two outs and the Orioles already winning 6-4. He quickly goes down 0-2. But then Wieters patiently works the count full. And then, on 3-2, he hits the exact same home run. Same distance, same spot in the park. Same “just my job, folks” jog around the basepath. For the first time in a very long while an Oriole reminded me of professional baseball hitter Harold Baines. Who, by the way, is now the White Sox first base coach, and whom Wieters thus passed as he rounded the bag. I wonder if Baines had the same thought that I did.
The Orioles are not, of course, a .600 team, and they are almost certainly not even a .500 team. I try to keep reminding myself that for the past few years the Orioles haven’t been the kind of mediocre-bad team that looks like a mediocre-bad team, but rather the kind that plays so well for a month that you say “I don’t see why this team shouldn’t have a winning record” and then so badly for two months that you say “I don’t see how this team can even win another game.” There is surely more pain to come. But so far it’s been a good month in Birdland.