The Orioles won their first series of the year with a 4-2 win over the Twins. Yovani Gallardo's debut was far from perfect, but was good enough to keep the Orioles in the game. The offense was lead by Chris Davis's first home run of the year and good nights at the plate by both J.J. Hardy and Joey Rickard.
Yovani Gallardo pitched five innings in his Orioles debut, and while that doesn't seem like many innings, it's probably what you should get used to. In his nine-year career he has averaged just about 6 innings per start, and in the last three seasons it has dropped to 5.8. The bullpen is not going to get a lot of rest in his games, even when he doesn't pitch too poorly.
Speaking of not pitching poorly, that's probably how tonight's start could be described. He didn't look particularly sharp, but he held the the Twins to just one run. He walked one batter each in the first and second innings, with his only run allowed coming in the third. Byron Buxton lead off with a double to left field, moved to third base on a sacrifice bunt, and came in to score on a sac fly to center by Joe Mauer. Gallardo then walked Miguel Sano for the second time in the game before getting the third out.
Gallardo recorded his only 1-2-3 inning in the fourth, then in the fifth inning gave up another double to Buxton. He finished the game with 89 pitches, 52 for strikes. He walked three and gave up two doubles. Before the game the MASN broadcast was touting him as a groundball pitcher, but we didn't really see that tonight. Of his 15 outs, he recorded just three by groundball (and one of those was a bunt).
My initial impression of Gallardo is that it might be tough to watch him at times this year. I'm going to reserve judgement until I've seen him a few times, but his fastball was only running 87-88 and he walked three batters in just five innings. It also looked to my eye test like he threw a number of meatballs that the Twins missed. As I said before, we shouldn't expect more than 5-6 innings out of him on a given day, but hopefully we'll see better in the walk department in the future.
If there is one thing that we heard about the Orioles this off season, it was how they are going to hit so many home runs that our heads will spin. We'll be seeing dongs in our sleep, they said. The weather in Baltimore hasn't been so cooperative yet, the cool air isn't so good for putting balls over the fence. And so the Orioles have taken to scoring runs in ways that don't always involve home runs. Who knew they could do it?
First, J.J. Hardy. He took another walk. I know! Hardy's walk rate hasn't topped 5.5% since 2010 and he already has two in two games. To add to the insanity, the notoriously slow Hardy scored on a fly ball to right field that Sano should have caught. Hardy turned on the afterburners as he was waved in rounding third and slid in to score the first run of the game.
Later in the game in a nearly identical situation, Mark Trumbo also showed off his wheels. He took a walk (career walk rate: 6.5%) and then scored on a long double by Matt Wieters. It's hard to believe, but I think that Trumbo is even slower than Hardy.
But what about the dongs, you ask? Well yes, there was a dong tonight. Chris Davis is a big strong man and he doesn't care if the weather is cold. He will hit dingers no matter what. After launching a ball to center field on Opening Day that would surely be a home run in warmer weather, Davis muscled up and hit one almost to the same place. This time it landed over the wall for the O's first home run of the year (the first of...250? A gal can dream).
The Legend of Joey Rickard
The ovations and chants for Joey Rickard continued tonight as he provided even more fuel for his legendary status. Coming up in the second inning he singled to right field with a runner in scoring position, though Schoop wasn't able to score.
In the fourth inning Rickard came to the plate with Hardy on third base and hit a fly ball to left field that probably would have been a double if Twins left fielder Eddie Rosario hadn't made a very sweet catch. It ended up being a sacrifice fly and Rickard's first RBI of what is sure to be a long and accomplished career.
When Rickard came up to bat in the sixth inning, the crowd again began serenading him with chants of "JO-EY! JO-EY!" just as they had on Opening Day. Rickard grounded out, but the crowd still loved him.
In his fourth and final at bat of the night, Joey was again chanted at and this time he hit an opposite field bloop for his second hit of the game. He didn't score, but did cause havoc at first base, distracting the pitcher and causing him to throw over multiple times.
And finally, earlier today when photos of the O's trip to the governor's mansion in Annapolis surfaced, multiple Camden Chatters declared Rickard to be dreamy. So it's been a big day for the young man all around.
Just as he did on Opening Day, Buck Showalter went with Mychal Givens, Brad Brach, Darren O'Day, and Zach Britton to close out the game.
After pitching a filthy inning on Opening Day, Givens fell apart in his second inning of work and allowed two runs. That shakiness continued tonight as Givens gave up a long home run to Trevor Plouffe and recorded only two outs before being pulled for Brach. Givens definitely has nasty stuff, that was evident, even if he couldn't get out of the inning unscathed.
Brach finished the sixth inning and pitched the seventh inning as well. He walked two but otherwise struck out the side, ending with an impressive swinging strikeout to Sano.
O'Day pitched a perfect eighth with two strikeouts, but Britton was definitely a little bit off tonight. The leadoff batter, Edaurdo Escobar, doubled to left-center field. Britton then struck the next two batters out, but threw a wild pitch to allow Escobar to get to third. He then walked Brian Dozier to bring Joe Mauer to the plate. It was very tense, but Britton got his act together and struck out Mauer to end the game.
O's win! They'll go for the sweep tomorrow night with Ubaldo Jimenez facing off against Phil Hughes.