7 years and 16 days. That's how long it's been since the Orioles last swept a series from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Of course, back then they were just called the Anaheim Angels. The winning pitchers in that four game series? Rodrigo Lopez, Kerry Ligtenberg, Sidney Ponson, and Jason Johnson. Three of the four games were saved by Jorge Julio, and the O's got home runs from Jeff Conine, Tony Batista (he hit 2!), Luis Matos, and David Segui. 25 year old Brian Roberts hit leadoff in all four games just as 32 year old Brian Roberts did in this series.
But enough about the past, because this series marks the start of the Orioles' future. And if the future is going to be good, we're going to need to see a whole lot more of what happened tonight (well, except for that little problem with the bullpen). Jake Arrieta pitched an amazing game and the Orioles hitters battled one of the tougher pitchers in baseball, breaking through for four runs after being shut down for five innings.
Hitters first, because it's less exciting. Dan Haren kept the O's off the board until the sixth inning, giving up five hits through the first five. Leading off the sixth inning, Nick Markakis said enough of that and launched his eighth home run of the year to give the O's a 1-0 lead. In the same inning, with two outs, Adam Jones doubled and Felix Pie hit a ball back up the middle to score him. I could really get used to watching those two. They'd add two more in the seventh inning as Corey Patterson singled to lead off the inning and scored on a double by Brian Roberts. Brian Bob moved to third when Torii Hunter bobbled the ball in right field and scored on a single by Markakis.
We all know the problems Arrieta has faced this year. Too many walks, poor control of his secondary pitches, and too many fly balls, to name a few. None of that plagued Arrieta tonight. In fact, Arrieta was perfect into the fifth inning because he had all of those factors under control. He ended his day with two walks, the first coming with one out in the sixth inning. Prior to that, Arrieta had thrown just 58 pitches, 38 of which were strikes. In his seven pitch fourth inning he didn't throw a single ball, and prior to walking Peter Bourjos he'd gone to a three ball count just twice. Long story short, his control was impeccable, thanks in big part to his breaking pitches. It will be interesting to look at the pitching data once it's posted, but from where I sat it looked like he had great break and was hitting his spots all night.
The fifth inning is a little early to start thinking perfect game, but that didn't stop me from being disappointed when Alberto Callaspo lined a double down the right field line with two outs. It also didn't stop Markakis from completely laying out for the ball. It was a great effort and would have been an outstanding catch, but it glanced off of his glove. Even with the no-no gone, Arrieta continued to dominate. Two runners reached in the sixth inning, one the walk to Bourjos and the other on an error by Roberts (Brian had a tough night in the field, clearly still feeling the effects of the bruise on his shin). Jake gave up back-to-back singles to lead off the seventh, but both hits were cheap grounders, one up the middle by Hunter and one just barely sneaking through the right side, hit by Hideki Matsui. A double play and a fly ball made short work of the Angels, though, and Arrieta finished the seventh inning with just 88 pitches.
In the eighth, Jake finally began to show signs that he was tiring. Pinch hitter Reggie Willits led off with a line drive single to right, and after a strike out of Bourjos, Arrieta walked Erick Aybar on five pitches. With one out Maicer Izturis hit what could have been an inning ending double play, but Roberts bobbled the ball and just barely got the out at second. After the play Brian was slow to get up and clearly in some pain. Whether that pain is from the ball off the shin yesterday or something more sinister, it was impossible to tell. If it's anything other than the shin, they better get him out of the lineup.
At that point Arrieta had thrown 20 pitches in the inning and 108 total, so Buck Showalter pulled him from the game. Hard to argue, but it was just a shame they couldn't have turned the double play for him. He left to a loud ovation from the fans, and rightly so. Arrieta ended his night having faced 29 batters. He gave up four hits and two walks; he struck out four. He retired twelve batters on grounders and six on fly balls. It was an absolutely brilliant game. Unfortunately, he wouldn't get the win he deserved.
Showalter called on Mike Gonzalez to pitch to Bobby Abreu, and on the second pitch Abreu hit the ball back up the middle to score Willits from third and cost Arrieta the shutout. Buck obviously had it in mind for Gonzo to be a LOOGY, because no sooner did Abreu reach first than he was back out on the mound, calling for Jason Berken. That, unfortunately, proved to be a bad idea.
Berken has had his troubles lately, and tonight was no exception as he faced Torii Hunter. Wieters set up low and away, but that's not where Berken threw it. His 91 mph fastball instead went up and in, and Hunter hit it up and out to tie the game at four. According to his hit chart on MLB At Bat, that's pretty much the worst place you can throw a pitch to Torii Hunter.
Fernando Rodney came in to pitch the eighth inning for the Angels, and while the O's couldn't score, Luke Scott had a ridiculous at-bat against him. Luke watched the first three pitches to get the count to 2-1, then fouled off seven straight, took another ball, hit another foul, and then hit a line drive that unfortunately went right to the shortstop. In the post game presser Buck credited Luke's thirteen pitch AB as a difference maker because without it Rodney would have been back out to pitch the ninth, and instead they got to face (the other) Francisco Rodriguez.
After Berken pitched an uneventful top of the 9th, Matt Wieters led off against Rodriguez, hitting an opposite field double to put the winning run at second base. He was pinch run for, then Patterson sacrificed the runner over to third. That's when Mike Scioscia decided to get cute. He held a meeting at the mound and called Torii Hunter in from right field. The Angels lined up their infielders plus Hunter around the infield, pulled in in an attempt to keep the runner from scoring and the ground ball from sneaking through. It didn't work, though, because Cesar Izturis just lined the ball back up the middle to end the game.
Sweep! Of the Angels! Undefeated under Buck! Tomorrow the first place White Sox come to town. I say bring it.