Last night's 4-3 Red Sox victory over the Orioles featured a shaky effort by Wei-Yin Chen who gave up an uncharacteristically high 12 hits over 5 2/3 innings. The Orioles have a long history of forcing Chen to master every pitch due to the dearth of run support that he gets from his teammates. Once again he had to face a strong lineup knowing full well that his team was likely to come up short in the run department. Although Chris Davis went 2 for 4 and Matt Wieters went 3 for 4, Markakis, Hardy, Jones, and Davis have yet to drive in a run for the Orioles. Nelson Cruz, the star of Opening Day, belted a home run in each of the first two games. He could have tied Frank Robinson as the only Oriole to homer in his first three games with the team, but Cruz went 0 for 4 last night. With the Orioles going 2 for 7 with runners in scoring position and the Red Sox going 2 for 10, this matchup came down to the starting pitching. Starter Felix Doubront and four relief pitchers kept the door shut on the Orioles even though the birds tried to rally late in the game.
The opening series of the new baseball season featured a match-up between the defending World Series champions and a Baltimore Orioles team that hopes to challenge Boston in the American League East during the 2014 campaign. Coming into the series, Baltimore's new lineup had been touted as one of the most potent in the league while questions loomed over Red Sox Nation about whether Boston's pitching was capable of carrying the team to another title. Although the opening series is too early to make bold statements about where either team is going, there are early indications that the Sox probably have a stronger team that many analysts had given them credit for, while the Orioles offense has sputtered for three games. Had Boston poked through one or two more hits in the opening game on Monday, they may very well be leaving Baltimore with a sweep.
What this game means for the Orioles
Although some local baseball analysts and fans are beginning to express angst over the weak offensive performance of this team, it is far too early to be raising doubts about the productive potential of this year's battery. Although winning a series against any team is desirable, taking last night's game would have continued the recent dominance of the Orioles over the Red Sox and given Birdland more confidence about the new look of their team. Yet, there are bright spots. The starting pitching in the first three games has been shaky but decent. Matt Wieters, Chris Davis, Nick Markakis, and Nelson Cruz tapped the ball with enough authority to at least give the team a fighting chance over the past three games. Ryan Flaherty has done a solid job as the Orioles temporary third basemen. While not as flashy as Manny Machado, Flaherty is dependable and reliable on the hot corner.
Where do the Orioles go from here
April will be a challenging month for the Orioles, and we should be able to get a good idea about the capabilities of this team in the next few weeks. Upcoming opponents include three games versus the Detroit Tigers and three games at the New York Yankees before coming home for a six-game home stand against the Toronto Blue Jays and the Tampa Bay Rays.
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