The Jim Thome acquisition boosted most people’s sense of optimism that the Orioles can reverse the dreadful downturn of the last two weeks. The team wasn’t executing any facet of the game well, and the punchless lineup might as well have been the first thing Dan Duquette addressed.
He got the right guy. As 609 lifetime homers will attest, Thome simply has never stopped hitting the longball reliably, when he got playing time. His bat woke up during interleague play, particularly at Camden Yards, unless that was just because he was facing a slumping Oriole pitching staff. But the Orioles won 2 of 3 when the Phils visited Camden Yards.
If he comes through as advertised, he will protect the rest of the lineup. Opposing pitchers had figured out how to pitch to most Oriole hitters, leading to deep slump in hitting with runners in scoring position. His first game in the lineup, Sunday, Thome hit 5th, protecting Adam Jones, and went 0 for 4 as the Orioles lost 3 of 4 to the Indians.
The O’s have three months, or roughly 90 games, to go with Thome DH’ing against righthanders, and presumably more often than just that, since he can hit lefties, too. You never assume anything, but it just makes sense that Jones, and by extension, everybody else from 1 through 4 in the lineup will start seeing more pitches to hit.
That’s the plan. But baseball is a funny game.
Sending Brian Matusz down was also a welcome move, on the heels of another one, sending Tommy Hunter down. Norfolk’s Steve Johnson got the call to join the team, in what will be his first appearance in the major leagues, a feel-good story.
What will feel even better is getting some opposing hitters out, which was the original key to the successful stretch the Orioles enjoyed earlier.
I can’t say too much about Jim Johnson, Matt Wieters and Jones making the All-Star team as reserves, except you go, boys. (Is that already old? Okay, how about we’re happy to hear that?) Jason Hammel, another richly deserving pitcher, will find out this week if he made it.