The story of today's game was, again, the starting pitching. One day after Jason Hammel dazzled us with a complete-game one hitter, Wei-Yin Chen put together a fantastic performance that resulted in seven shutout innings. The Orioles needed it, too, as their hitters weren't able to put much together against Braves starter Randall Delgado, who didn't look much like the walking machine I expected.
The Orioles scored their first run of the game in the second inning with just one hit. Adam Jones led off with a double, then moved to third on a fly out by Wilson Betemit and scored on a flyout by Mark Reynolds.
Through the early innings, Chen was helped out by the pitcher's best friend over and over. He gave up a one-out single in the first inning but Chipper Jones grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. In the second, another single, only for Jason Heyward to GIDP. But the double play in the third inning was the best of them all.
Back-to-back singles by David Ross and Andrelton Simmons put runners on first and second with no outs and the pitcher coming to the plate. Chen was clinging to a one-run lead and it Delgado was pitching well, so those runners were huge. Delgado bunted the ball and it went back to Chen, who threw to third base for the first out. J.J. Hardy was covering third and he fired to first where Robert Andino was waiting to make the out. With both middle infielders covering the corner bases, Simmons at second was just kind of hanging out, not on the base. Center fielder Adam Jones ran in to cover second and Andino threw to him, but it was a bad throw that went into center field, allowing Simmons to get to third. It was a great heads up play by Jones and one good throw from Andino away from a very non-conventional triple play. Chen retired Michael Bourn on a comebacker to strand Simmons.
Delgado was cruising through the middle innings, striking out Orioles left and right and looking kind of unstoppable. But in the sixth inning, they caught a break. Steve Pearce hit a line drive to left field that Matt Diaz raced in to catch but OOPS, he ran in too far! The ball sailed over his head and Pearce ended up on second, generously awarded a double. Because the Orioles were playing National League baseball today, Chen had to bat next, and he got down a good bunt to move Pearce to third.
That brought leadoff hitter Andino to the plate, playing today in place of Brian Roberts. Don't worry, nothing is wrong with Brian. Buck Showalter was just giving him a rest. Delgado started into his windup and then stopped. I don't really know why, he looked like he decided maybe he wanted to pitch from the stretch. Or maybe his nose itched, who knows. But whatever the case, it was a clear balk. Pearce trotted in from third based to make the score 2-0 in favor of the Orioles.
Delgado followed that with a walk to Andino, but then he got his own double play as Hardy grounded to second base.
It was all pitching from there on out. Delgado pitched two more innings before leaving with a final line of: 8 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 6 K. He was the poster boy for the hard-luck loss today, that's for sure. Chen completed seven innings with a line of: 7 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 K. His ERA now sits at 3.36 for the season.
Instead of going with Pedro Strop for the 8th inning as has become custom, Buck played the match-up game. Darren O'Day started the 8th and when he gave up a single, he was pulled for lefty Troy Patton. Patton was slated to face two lefites, Juan Francisco and Michael Bourn. The Braves pinch hit for Francisco, sending righty Jack Wilson to the plate. but Jack Wilson can't hit, so it was fine. Patton retired both Wilson and Bourn, then was pulled from the game for Strop, who got Martin Prado to ground out to end the inning.
After the Braves used Chad Durbin and Eric O'Flaherty for a scoreless top of the 9th, it was JJ time. Jim Johnson was filthy today, with both his sinker and a fantastic curve ball. Chipper Jones grounded out and then JJ struck out Dan Uggla and Diaz to end the game.
With that, the Orioles have now won four series in a row, but have been unable to gain any ground in the standings as the Yankees are just on fire and the Nationals rolled over against them this weekend. Tomorrow the Orioles head to New York to face the Mets, where they'll have to beat R.A. Dickey and/or Johan Santana if they want to make it five series wins in a row.