Wednesday, August 17, 2005

MLB: Orioles 4, Oakland Athletics 3 (August 16)

WP: Bruce Chen (10-6)
LP: Jay Witasick (1-1)
S: B.J. Ryan (27)

BAL: 59-60 (4th in AL East, 11 behind Boston)

The Orioles have guaranteed themselves a series win against the Wild Card-leading Oakland Athletics. They may have needed some friendly umpiring (after some unfriendly umpiring), some pitching out of big jams, and a whole lot of nailbiting, but they won.

In what was a pitchers duel between Bruce Chen and Joe Blanton for much of the game, the Orioles went into the seventh inning (the same inning they busted the game open yesterday) tied 1-1. Jay Witasick had replaced Blanton to begin the inning, and Witasick seemingly had things in control after a one-out walk to Brian Roberts and a stolen base. But with two outs, Melvin Mora hit a grounder that third baseman Eric Chavez dove to get. Chavez' throw was off line, and it pulled first baseman Dan Johnson's foot off the bag. It appeared, however, that he got back to the base before Mora reached, but Mora was called safe and Brian Roberts scored on the play.

Miguel Tejada then doubled to score Mora, and Javy Lopez singled in Tejada to make it 4-1.

Earlier in the game, Roberts led off the inning with what appeared to be a single to left field that was trapped by Jay Payton, but the umpire said that Payton made the catch. After that, Eric Byrnes took a walk and Melvin Mora singled him to third on a hit that would have scored Roberts. Miguel Tejada followed with a double play to end the inning, but that would have just been the first two outs and scored Byrnes had the Roberts hit counted.

Jorge Julio gave up a run in the eighth inning to make it 4-2, and B.J. Ryan came in for a very stressful save in the ninth. Ryan loaded the bases with one out, then gave up an infield single to Jason Kendall that made it 4-3 before getting Mark Kotsay to hit a shallow fly out and then striking out Bobby Crosby to end the game.

Rafael Palmeiro, in his second game back in the lineup since his suspension, went 2-for-4 with a run scored.

The O's go for the big sweep of the Athletics in Oakland this afternoon at 3:35. Daniel Cabrera (8-11, 5.00 ERA, throws right -- and from 6'7" off the mound) goes for the O's, and he will face Dan Haren (10-8, 3.90 ERA, throws right).

Cabrera, to put it mildly, has struggled recently, while Haren, to also put it mildly, has not.

Cabrera has lost his last four decisions, and has given up 13 runs (nine earned) in his last two starts (a total of just 7.2 innings).

Haren had won his previous nine decisions before taking a 1-0 complete game loss on August 12. In his last three starts, he's given up just three runs over 23 innings.

Well, so much for my "baseball gods won't let us win with Palmeiro" theory -- although it almost looked like the Orioles were destined to blow the lead late last night.

But alas, the Orioles win and move back to within a game of .500, with Palmeiro even helping out. Raffy got booed every time he came to the plate, but it wasn't that loud because the A's have no fans. (Averaging just over 26,000 a game -- even with the team winning in the Wild Card race.)

This afternoon the O's go for a big sweep, which would bring the team back to the .500 mark. They will rely on Daniel Cabrera, who has struggled with his composure and his command in his last couple starts, not going more than four innings in either of them.

Hopefully errors, walks and hit-batsmen won't be a problem today (or at the very least won't cause Cabrera to implode) as the O's have their work cut out for them in facing Dan (formerly Danny -- I guess it's not cool to be "Danny") Haren. The A's had won in 14 straight Haren starts before their bats let him down when he pitched a one-run complete game last Friday and took the loss.

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