Ladies and gentlemen, I am happy to tell you that in a most positive fashion, Wei-Yin Chen was the story of the evening. Of course, I could talk about Nate McLouth's seemingly successful march back from oblivion or perhaps tonight's brief respite from RISPFAIL hell, but no, Taiwan's hero continued to lay a convincing claim to the mantle of staff ace with his 10th win and a share of a 6 hit shutout.
Chen tossed his 5th quality start in seven turns and of course, one of those "non-quality" starts was last week's 5.2 inning 12 strikeout effort. To say Chen is in the zone right now might not even appropriately capture the moment. Last week, he kept the A's constantly guessing, tonight he pitched to contact and kept the ball on the ground mixing 8 groundouts with 4 strikeouts against only one walk and five hits over seven innings. This is not to say Tampa is a top notch offense, but they are certainly dangerous and you take your wins where you can get them.
That being said, the offense performed against Jeremy Hellickson tonight. Two weeks ago, Hellickson dispensed with the O's easily, using 96 pitches over 6.1 innings in a 3-1 victory. Tonight, Hellickson was chased after 4 innings having allowed 8 hits and 4 walks on 88 pitches. The Rays bullpen would shut things down after Hellickson's departure, but the 4 runs the Orioles had put on the board to that point would be enough to seal the victory. Surely, after the gnashing of teeth, beating of breasts and rending of garments over last week's RISP futility, tonight's 5-9 performance with runners in scoring position was a sight for sore eyes.
Of note through the order, particular praise must be singled out for Nick Markakis who continues to deliver at the top of the order, J.J. Hardy who is now OPS'ing nearly .900 over the last two weeks and Nate McLouth who singled and doubled in his Orioles debut (we can overlook a little overzealous defending, right?).
On the negative side of the ledger, it was another rough night for Mark Reynolds who K'd thrice. Brutal...though it was good to see Matt Wieters crack a big smile in the postgame when answering a question from Tom Davis about his two (that's right, two) stolen bases tonight
Tomorrow's rubber match will pit David Price against Miguel Gonzalez as the Orioles look to gain ground in the Wild Card race....and it feels awesome writing that out.
Ain't the beer cold?