Tejada’s clutch bat leads Orioles past Red Sox, 5-4 in 10

April 30, 2010 | Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — To say the Orioles have struggled in the month of April would be comparable to labeling Mount Everest as a “pretty big hill.”

Their record entering Friday night made them the 12th team to start a season 4-18 or worse since 1900. Not exactly the type of history you want to make. Only the hapless 1988 club has saved the current Orioles from suffering the worst start in franchise history.

The club looked to be well on its way to another disappointing loss after failing to capitalize with runners in scoring position and to protect the lead in the late innings. However, that outlook changed dramatically when Miguel Tejada stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth, connecting for a game-tying home run off Daniel Bard.

Tejada’s heroics weren’t finished as the game moved into extra innings, and he knocked in the winning run in the 10th to give the Orioles a 5-4 victory over the Boston Red Sox at Camden Yards.

“I just put in my mind that I had to be able to relax,” said Tejada. “I know they had to throw me a strike, and I was lucky to get one pitch over the plate.”

Considering Tejada was one of the “big bats” acquired by general manager Andy MacPhail this offseason, it’s easy to be underwhelmed with his performance after watching Adrian Beltre sign with Boston and Chone Figgins with Seattle. In reality, Tejada has quietly put together a nice start in his first month back with the Orioles.

He leads the club with 13 runs batted in and has clubbed four home runs, second behind Ty Wigginton for the team lead. While his defense won’t make anyone forget about Brooks Robinson—or even Melvin Mora at this point—his transition to the hot corner hasn’t been nearly as painful as many expected.

“What it comes down to is getting the big hit when you need it from a guy who’s been there and that’s why Tejada is who he is,” said manager Dave Trembley. “He has the ability to rise to the occasion because he’s been there so many times.”

The Orioles have failed to rise to the occasion countless times over the first month of the season, so it was refreshing to finally see it happen, especially against the Red Sox.

Tejada hasn’t recaptured his 2004-level production and never will, but he’s been one of the select few to provide consistent offense in an otherwise miserable lineup. It’s astounding to think how much worse the lineup might be without him.

Then again, does it really matter when you’re 5-18?

Truthfully, the victory masked several of the recurring issues that have regularly cost this team ballgames in the month of April. Garrett Atkins’ comebacker to John Lackey with the bases loaded and no outs in the fourth squandered an opportunity to blow the game wide open and to knock the right-hander out of the game in the process. The first baseman—MacPhail’s other “big bat” acquired last winter—is now hitting .224 and appears to have lost his job to call-up Rhyne Hughes.

The pitching staff issued a season-high 10 walks, including five from the bullpen. Jim Johnson struggled mightily and blew his third save (in the seventh inning) of the season.

However, unlike far too many nights in the month of April, the Orioles found a way to pick up the victory instead of discovering a new method of losing as they’ve done so often in recent weeks.

And—for one night anyway—it’s a welcome change.

- The Orioles and Red Sox are now tied 2-2 in the season series. Friday night’s victory snapped a seven-game home losing streak against Boston.

- Now standing at 11-12, the Red Sox completed their first losing April since 1996.

- After dropping their first six series openers, Baltimore has now won two openers in a row. The club is still seeking its first series win of 2010.

- Nick Markakis has reached base safetly in 21 of 23 games this year and is now 19 for his last 59 (.322).

- Adam Jones picked up his sixth multi-hit game of the season. The outfielder is hitting .100 (7-70) in all other games this year.

- Of the 10 walks issued by Orioles pitchers, three were to No. 9 hitter and former Orioles first-round draft pick Darnell McDonald.

- J.D. Drew hit two home runs in Friday’s game, his 16th career multi-homer game.

- On Saturday night, Brad Bergesen will be recalled from Triple-A Norfolk to face Daisuke Matsuzaka who will be making his first start of the 2010 season.

Check out the final box score here and the pre-game notes below.

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**Join us right now in the Orange Crush chat as we’ll be talking baseball throughout the evening!**

Good evening and Happy Friday to you from the press box at Oriole Park at Camden Yards as we await the start of a three-game set between the Boston Red Sox (11-11) and the Baltimore Orioles (4-19).

Thankfully, the Yankees and their fans are long-gone, so the Orioles will again enjoy the benefits of a home—I’m sorry, I couldn’t even finish typing that. Walking into the ballpark this afternoon, the pink and green red and blue was prevalent as we can fully expect an overwhelming number of Boston fans to invade Camden Yards this weekend.

Shocking, I know.

Here are tonight’s starting lineups:

Boston
SS Marco Scutaro
2B Dustin Pedroia
C Victor Martinez
1B Kevin Youkilis
RF J.D. Drew
DH David Ortiz
3B Adrian Beltre
LF Jeremy Hermida
CF Darnell McDonald

SP John Lackey (2-1, 5.09 ERA)

Baltimore
CF Adam Jones
RF Nick Markakis
C Matt Wieters
3B Miguel Tejada
LF Luke Scott
2B Ty Wigginton
DH Rhyne Hughes
1B Garrett Atkins
SS Cesar Izturis

SP David Hernandez (0-3, 4.84 ERA)

As we do for every Orioles game, please join us in the Orange Crush chat at 7:00 p.m. to discuss tonight’s happenings from Camden Yards. For the quickest updates and analysis of tonight’s game, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter (@WNST).

Continue to check right here for more updates (time-stamped below) leading up to Hernandez’s first pitch at 7:05 p.m.

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6:35 p.m. — In a bit of good news—relatively speaking of course—the Orioles announced reliever Wilfrido Perez has cleared waivers and will be outrighted to Double-A Bowie. The 25-year-old lefty was designated for assignment when the club purchased the contract of Alfredo Simon on Tuesday afternoon.

Perez has shown promise in his brief career despite a 10.80 ERA in five appearances for the Baysox in 2010.

The Orioles will need to make another move tomorrow when Bergesen returns from the minor leagues to make the start. Matt Albers could be the guy to go, though he is out of options and would have to clear waivers before being sent to the minors.

Of course, it wouldn’t exactly be devastating to lose the right-handed reliever who currently sports a 7.36 ERA.

5:45 p.m. — Both of tonight’s starting pitchers made their last starts against the same opponent last weekend at Fenway Park.

John Lackey earned the victory in a 7-6 final last Saturday night and is now 9-3 with a 3.21 ERA in 13 career starts against the Orioles.

Hernandez picked up a no decision last Sunday in a game the Orioles won. Imagine that. He is 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA in five career starts against the Red Sox.

5:35 p.m. — Aside from another unacceptable takeover from the Bandwagon, the Orioles have lost seven straight games to Boston at Camden Yards. Everyone hates the annual takeovers, but at some point, you have to give fans a reason to want to come out to the ballpark and deal with Red Sox fans.

The Orioles’ performance certainly hasn’t done it.

5:25 p.m. — Tonight’s starting pitcher David Hernandez sports an ugly 0-3 record on the last day of April, but the young right-hander has not piched as poorly as his record indicates. As has been the case for the entire starting rotation—sans Brian Matusz until Thursday night—Hernandez has been the victim of shoddy run support.

The Orioles lineup has provided just 10 runs in his four starts with only two crossing the plate while Hernandez was still in the game. Even with a pedestrian 4.84 ERA, it’s clear he hasn’t received nearly enough support.

Keeping with starting pitcher news, Dave Trembley confirmed in his pre-game comments that Brad Bergesen would return from Triple-A Norfolk to make Saturday’s start against Daisuke Matsuzaka who himself will be making his first start of the 2010 season. Bergesen was originally scheduled to pitch for Norfolk tonight, but it wasn’t exactly a secret he would be getting the ball at Camden Yards on Saturday evening.

Trembley said Bergesen has made the necessary adjustments in his mechanics and pacing to return to the starting rotation despite only making one start for the Tides last weekend.

Regardless of how confident Trembley may be about Bergesen’s return, it’s hard to shake the image of Bergesen running off the mound in Seattle after a 2.2 inning performance in which he gave up seven runs (four earned). The lack of downward movement on his sinker was concerning enough, but his demeanor—one of the strengths of his rookie season—was alarming.

I still have a difficult time believing those issues are fixed in just an 11-day period, but we’ll see how he looks on Saturday night. If Bergesen struggles again, you really have to question the prudence of recalling the 24-year-old so soon when the club easily could have used Jason Berken for a spot start or two.

Of course, if Bergesen comes back and tosses a gem, all is well.

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