The Orioles went from being no-hit tonight to taking a 5-3 lead in the sixth inning. What the heck happened?
J.J. Hardy got the first hit off Boston starter Aaron Cook with a single into left field, and the Orioles sent 10 batters to the plate.
“J.J. got a pretty good swing on a ball. That’s about it,” said manager Buck Showalter. “It’s one of those things where you’ve got a pretty good idea of what he’s going to do coming in. And he was able to do it because he had that sinker starting in the middle of the zone and finishing in the bottom of the zone or out of it. “It’s still one of the best pitches in baseball.
“It wasn’t like we were hitting ground balls right at people, and some weak ground-ball contact. We’re having some (Felix) Hernandez flashbacks there for a second.”
The Orioles didn’t make Cook work very hard in the first three innings. His pitch count was so low, it looked like he play 18 without the golf clubs.
“Guys that pitch like him make a living out of making the ball appear as a strike and taking it to the opposite part of the bat,” Showalter said. “You’re going to have some guys aggressive. And usually the higher levels they go to, the more it plays. Guys are aggressive, they’re good hitters. I’ve seen a lot of sinker-ballers over the years like that. Their pitch count’s low because they’re always a pitch away from getting two outs with one pitch.”
Showalter still doesn’t seem to be focusing much on the standings, which will show the Orioles in second place tomorrow morning.
“I glance at them, but there’s so much baseball to be played and there are so many people involved in this that I think it’s counter-productive to dwell on it a whole lot,” he said.
“Things can change so quickly in a week’s time. Boston could win their next seven games and they’re right there. I guess that’s why it’s designed like that. Should be a lot of fun for the fans. I don’t know about for the managers. I’ve learned that you just try to stay away from it as much as possible and focus on what we have to do every day.”
The Orioles lead the wild card race, “but I’ll say again, our intent and our focus is on trying to catch the team ahead of us,” Showalter said.
Miguel Gonzalez said his splitter wasn’t effective tonight, but Showalter still views it as a key pitch.
“What’s happened, I think, is like a lot of our guys up here, his split’s become more of a factor,” Showalter said. “That’s what allows him to defend himself against left-handed hitters and he can spin the ball for a strike when he’s behind in the count. That split-slash-change is a third look and a third speed, and something that he really hadn’t grasped as a reliever.”
For those of you asking, Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez was ejected after taking exception to a quick-pitch by Orioles reliever Pedro Strop.
“I was talking with the umpire and I really don’t know,” Strop said. “The only thing I was concerned with was keeping me mind on the inning and the game. I didn’t want any distractions. I didn’t know what happened.
“That’s a quick pitch? That’s my guess. My guess was he was kind of mad at the quick pitch. He was arguing with the umpire saying that it was illegal. Something like that. But I haven’t got told that it’s illegal, so if it’s been working, I’m going to keep doing it.”