Orioles fans could be forgiven if they had forgotten entirely that winning a baseball game sometimes doesn't require saying "A win is a win, but..." As the team has hovered just above .500 for most of the young season, just about every win has had such a qualifier attached. If it hasn't been the starting pitching (and it usually has), it's been the defense, a barely satisfactory offense or a bullpen living on the razor's edge (Darren O'Day and Jim Johnson excluded). Tonight was no such night, as the Orioles decisively defeated the Dodgers to complete a sweep of a two-game doubleheader, and head into Sunday's play with hopes of their first series sweep of 2013 as well.
Wei-Yin Chen did not break the Orioles starters of their inability to get past the sixth inning, but he did acquit himself well against a potent-on-paper Dodgers offense, which continued to struggle against Chen as they have everyone else to start the season. Chen looked like he might make it a long game after the first inning, a lengthy effort that ended with just one run - Carl Crawford plated by an Adrian Gonzalez sac fly - but looked a lot worse when there were Dodgers on first and third with nobody out. After he pitched out of that spot of trouble, Chen put things in cruise control for five more innings, allowing a smattering of base hits and walks, but no extra-base hits and very few meaningful scoring threats.
The Orioles, for their part, took some time to find their offensive stride against Dodgers starter Josh Beckett, but eventually managed to put the game in the bag, tagging Beckett for six unanswered earned runs. Chris Davis evened things at 1-1 in the 2nd inning with a mammoth solo home run to dead center, which, Gary Thorne would later inform viewers, was the third-longest shot by an Oriole at Camden Yards. Ever. The score stuck at 1-1 until the fifth inning, most frustratingly through a two-out rally in the third, in which Nate McLouth, Manny Machado and Nick Markakis loaded the bases before Adam Jones grounded out weakly on a pitch well outside of the strike zone.
But if Orioles fans were thinking that murdered rally portended another night of offensive futility in support of a sturdy outing from Chen, they needed merely stay tuned for the fifth inning, when Beckett suddenly came off the rails, allowing a walk to McLouth after a hard-fought at-bat. McLouth stole second and advanced to third on a throw that sailed into center field, and Machado promptly plated him with a double lashed to left field. Jones came up looking for redemption, and clubbed a double to left-center that barely made it out of Crawford's glove (but also barely fell short of a home run), and scored Machado easily. Suddenly the Orioles found themselves up 3-1.
Chen cruised through the top of the sixth before the Orioles spotted him the kind of lead he hadn't seen since mid-season 2012. Back-to-back singles by Ryan Flaherty (really!) and McLouth came quickly before Machado served up an Earl Weaver special (appropriate, since Earl was honored by current and former Orioles legends prior to the game) and gave the Orioles a 6-1 lead they wouldn't relinquish.
As much as Orioles fans would have loved to see a starter go deep (especially on the back half of a doubleheader), Buck Showalter wisely decided to yank Chen for the seventh inning, opting for Tommy Hunter, who took full advantage of the five-run lead to comfortably record the last nine outs of the ballgame and preserve the rest of the bullpen, with the Dodgers continuing to scatter baserunners but still failing to record an extra-base hit.
So this is what it looks like to get a solid starting pitching performance, good offensive output and no fatal defensive miscues. The 2013 Orioles can do it after all.