Tag Archive | "Rangers"

Caps Holes Evident in Loss to Rangers

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Caps Holes Evident in Loss to Rangers

Posted on 17 February 2013 by Ed Frankovic

 

Typically in pro sports, wins and losses comes down to talent. On Sunday night in New York at Madison Square Garden talent was the difference as the New York Rangers knocked off the Washington Capitals, 2-1, despite an outstanding goaltending performance from the Caps Braden Holtby (38 saves).

The Caps came into this game already missing Brooks Laich up front and Dmitry Orlov on the back end and when they had to play without their best defensemen, Mike Green (lower body injury), you knew it was going to be tough sledding for Washington. And that is exactly what happened as the Rangers used their talent up front to dominate puck possession and the shot clock for the first 30 minutes of this contest. The only thing that made it a game to that point was Holtby, who somehow managed to keep the scoreboard knotted at one.

Unfortunately for Washington, Holtby couldn’t score goals from the opposing crease and that is what doomed the Capitals in this one. Over the last 30 minutes Coach Adam Oates’ team started to carry more of the play, but when you only have three top six forwards and are relying on guys like Wojtek Wolksi and Jason Chimera to score from the left wing on the top two lines you are in trouble. Don’t get me wrong, I like Chimera. He is a lunch pail, hard working forward, but he is a third line left winger. Wolski, well that’s another story. The former first round pick isn’t on his fifth team for nothing, although that is what the Caps pretty much paid for him. In this case, the old saying, “You get what you paid for” certainly applies. Wolski had several opportunities to score on Sunday night after some sweet set ups from Nicklas Backstrom, yet Wolski couldn’t find the net on many of them.

On the back end with Green out, Oates had two choices in either Tom Poti or Roman Hamrlik. Neither are good ones at this point as both older players have shown that their careers are pretty much finished. Poti got the call on Sunday and played less than 10 minutes. On the Rangers first goal, Poti was downright terrible turning the puck over and then failing to tie up Carl Hagelin by the net as #62 put the biscuit home. Oates barely played #3 after that one.

Still, given the talent imbalance, I have to give the Capitals players credit for battling a team that many have picked to come out of the Eastern Conference to play for the Stanley Cup this spring down to the wire. There was no lack of effort from Washington’s players and Oates has impressed me with what he’s done in many areas with this team. But at the end of the day, they just don’t have enough finishers. The Caps opponents know they just need to key on Alex Ovechkin, Backstrom, and Mike Ribeiro and they are in good shape. Even still, the Capitals almost tied this one up late, so kudos on the effort.

But despite the late surge the effort yielded 0 points and Washington fell to 5-9-1, good for last place in the Eastern Conference.

Two years ago in the post season the Capitals eliminated the Rangers in five games. After that series, Rangers Coach John Tortorella said, “We are not there yet,” describing his lack of talent compared to Washington’s, at the time. Last spring, the Caps and New York played a seven game series that was pretty much a dead heat but the Rangers got the bounces and moved on.

So what transpired last summer from a management perspective for these two clubs? Well the Rangers went out and acquired former #1 draft pick Rick Nash while the Caps acquired Ribeiro to fill their gaping hole at second line center. Unfortunately the Capitals let Alex Semin and Dennis Wideman walk in free agency without replacing them. Sure they were counting on Orlov to fill some of Wideman’s shoes, but Wideman didn’t get upwards of $5M a year for nothing. Semin received $7M from the Hurricanes, who are in first place in the Southeast Division. Based on that, combined with the injuries to Laich and Orlov, it is pretty easy to see why the teams sure seem headed in opposite directions right now.

To get back into the playoff race will be extremely difficult for the Caps, at this point, unless management makes some moves. That doesn’t appear easy, even if they are willing to do so. Sure Washington has some good young talent overseas and at the junior level. But Evgeny Kuznetsov (2010 1st round pick) won’t be in the NHL until 2014, Filip Forsberg (2012 1st round pick) is playing in Sweden this year, and Tom Wilson (2012 1st round pick) needs the proper time to develop. There is no immediate help in the system this season so the answer would have to come from trades, which are difficult to pull off in the salary cap era.

Therefore, it just looks like the Caps will have to gut this out and see where things take them. If they aren’t making up ground by the trade deadline (April 3rd), then a decision will have to be made on Ribeiro, who will be a free agent this summer. Based on the way #9 has played, he will bring value in return. Then again, it may be worth signing him if Washington thinks it is in position to compete with the elite of the East starting in October. It also doesn’t make any sense to rush Laich and Orlov back from their injuries, as well.

In no way am I advocating quitting on the season, you never do that. However, given that there are some prize players at the top of the draft board this year, particularly American defensemen Seth Jones, who just helped Team USA win the Gold Medal in the World Juniors in January, the Caps need to be smart about things because adding a player like Jones given what is in the pipeline the next two years changes the dynamic of your team.

But there are still 33 contests to go and the Eastern Conference is pretty weak after the Rangers, Boston Bruins, and New Jersey Devils. The Penguins and Hurricanes certainly appear to be in the next grouping but after that, there are no really strong teams so anything can happen.

Still, when you see the holes in the Capitals lineup, it is tough to get excited about this short lockout stained season.

Notes: Backstrom was 12-6 on faceoffs and Washington won the battle there overall, 31-27, but on the Rangers game winning PPG, Jay Beagle was beaten cleanly on the draw and the Rags scored in seven seconds for the ball game…the Rangers had 20 shots in the 1st period but Holtby, in amazing fashion, stopped them all…Tomas Kundratek played a career high 23:25 with Green out of the lineup…Washington’s power play missed #52 and went 0 for 4…the Caps have a crucial two game series with the Devils starting on Thursday. If they lose both tilts, then the Jones talk will heat up even more…for more of my take on the team, check out my on-air session with Thyrl Nelson of WNST from Friday’s MobTown Sportsbeat show here

 

 

 

 

 

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Orioles reportedly interested in free-agent prize Hamilton

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Orioles reportedly interested in free-agent prize Hamilton

Posted on 08 November 2012 by WNST Staff

After advancing to the postseason for the first time in 15 years, the Orioles are apparently targeting the top free-agent hitter on the market this offseason.

According to a report from FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi, Texas Rangers outfielder and 2010 American League Most Valuable Player Josh Hamilton tops the club’s wishlist this winter as he would provide an excellent fit in left field. Nate McLouth is a free agent, so there is a clear opening in the outfield to add one of the game’s most feared hitters.

Hamilton hit .285, clubbed 43 home runs, and knocked in 128 runs in Texas this past season, but the 31-year-old struggled in the second half of the season with a .259 average and drew the ire of Rangers fans as he struggled down the stretch during a team-wide collapse that cost Texas the AL West division title.

Much doubt remains over how serious executive vice president of baseball operations Dan Duquette and the Orioles would be about Hamilton, who is reportedly seeking a deal in the range of seven years and $175 million. Baltimore’s Opening Day payroll in 2012 was an estimated $84 million, so the addition of Hamilton would drastically alter their current payroll structure.

Morsosi also reports the same source said free-agent outfielder Cody Ross would be another option they might target should Hamilton’s price prove too steep. He hit .267 with 22 home runs and 81 runs batted in with the Boston Red Sox in 2012.

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Orioles-Rangers Wild Card game starting lineups and full rosters

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Orioles-Rangers Wild Card game starting lineups and full rosters

Posted on 05 October 2012 by WNST Staff

Here are tonight’s lineups as the Orioles play the Texas Rangers in the first ever American League Wild Card game in which the winner advances to the American League Division Series to play the New York Yankees …

Baltimore Lineup:

LF Nate McLouth
SS J.J. Hardy
RF Chris Davis
CF Adam Jones
C Matt Wieters
DH Jim Thome
1B Mark Reynolds
2B Ryan Flaherty
3B Manny Machado

SP Joe Saunders

Here is the Orioles’ full available 25 man roster for the game…

INFIELDERS/OUTFIELDERS/DH (12)

Robert Andino             INF

Endy Chavez                OF

Chris Davis                  RF

Ryan Flaherty              INF

Lew Ford                      OF

JJ Hardy                       SS

Adam Jones                 CF

Manny Machado          3B

Nate McLouth              OF

Omar Quintanilla         INF

Mark Reynolds             1B

Jim Thome                   DH

 

CATCHERS (2)

Taylor Teagarden         CA

Matt Wieters               CA

 

PITCHERS (11)

Jake Arrieta                 RHP

Luis Ayala                    RHP

Zach Britton                LHP

Tommy Hunter             RHP

Jim Johnson                RHP

Steve Johnson             RHP

Brian Matusz               LHP

Darren O’Day               RHP

Troy Patton                  LHP

Joe Saunders              LHP

Pedro Strop                 RHP

Texas Lineup:
2B Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
LF Josh Hamilton
3B Adrian Beltre
RF Nelson Cruz
1B Michael Young
DH Mike Napoli
C Geovany Soto
CF Craig Gentry

SP Yu Darvish

Here is  the Rangers’ full available 25 man roster for the game…

RHP

Yu Darvish (starter), Scott Feldman, Roy Oswalt, Joe Nathan, Alexi Ogando, Koji Uehara, Yoshinori Tateyama.

LHP

Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, Michael Kirkman, Robbie Ross.

Catchers

Mike Napoli, Geovany Soto, Luis Martinez.

Infielders

Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler, Mitch Moreland, Jurickson Profar, Michael Young.

Outfielders

Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton, David Murphy, Craig Gentry, Leonys Martin.

 

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Orioles pick Saunders to start Wild Card game against Texas

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Orioles pick Saunders to start Wild Card game against Texas

Posted on 04 October 2012 by Luke Jones

A day before playing their first postseason game in 15 years, the Orioles have decided on left-hander Joe Saunders to make the start against the Texas Rangers in Arlington.

Baltimore skipper Buck Showalter had mentioned left-hander Joe Saunders and rookie right-hander Steve Johnson as top candidates but decided to go with the former as Johnson deals with a sore knee. Saunders will be on regular rest and has more experience pitching in big games. The Orioles will undoubtedly lean heavily on a deep and well-rested bullpen, meaning Saunders will have a short leash against a powerful lineup.

Though he did not face Texas in the 2012 regular season, Saunders is 0-6 with a 9.38 ERA in six career starts in Arlington.

The 31-year-old has been effective since his first start with the Orioles in late August. In his last six starts, Saunders has posted a 3-2 record with a 2.75 ERA in 39 1/3 innings.

Rangers manager Ron Washington has already announced Japanese rookie Yu Darvish will take the ball against the Orioles. Darvish finished his first major league season at 16-9 with a 3.90 earned run average. He struck out 221 batters and walked 89 in 29 starts covering 191 1/3 innings.

In five September starts, Darvish was 3-0 with a 2.21 ERA in 36 2/3 innings and collected 39 strikeouts and seven walks.

The Orioles did not face Darvish in the regular season.

Texas owned the best record in the American League for much of the season but dropped nine of their last 13 games to lose the AL West to the Oakland Athletics in their final game of the season Wednesday. The Orioles owned the top road record (46-35) in the league.

Playing in the first ever AL Wild Card play-in game, the Orioles and Rangers each finished with a 93-69 record, but Texas was awarded the home-field advantage due to their 5-2 record over Baltimore during the regular season. The game will begin at 8:37 p.m. at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

The winner of Friday’s game will go on to play the top-seed New York Yankees in the American League Division Series. That series would begin on Sunday, with the Yankees traveling to the play-in game winner’s ballpark for Games 1 and 2.

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Orioles prepare for another challenge in Texas

Posted on 20 August 2012 by WNST Staff

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Davis more than folk hero for Orioles in surprising 2012 season

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Davis more than folk hero for Orioles in surprising 2012 season

Posted on 18 June 2012 by Luke Jones

Chris Davis might be the best example of what the 2012 Orioles are all about.

Entering the season with untapped potential and more failure than success at the big-league level, both Davis and the Orioles have blossomed in the first 2 1/2 months of the season, surpising critics and even the most optimistic fans in what’s been Baltimore’s best start since 2005.

The 26-year-old Davis has morphed into a fan favorite in his first full season with the Orioles, not only becoming one of the team’s most productive hitters but providing one of the craziest memories in club history when he pitched two innings to earn the win in a 17-inning marathon at Fenway Park on May 6.

Add a broken-bat home run against Pittsburgh last week and his first games in right field at the big-league level this past weekend in Atlanta and you have all the makings of a folk hero in Baltimore.

Much like the 39-27 Orioles, at times, it’s difficult to believe what you’re seeing when watching the designated hitter/first baseman/right fielder/pitching extraordinaire.

But there’s no understating how important Davis’ emergence has been this season, especially with stints on the disabled list by Nolan Reimold, Mark Reynolds, and Nick Markakis. Center fielder Adam Jones has emerged as a superstar by leading the Orioles in batting average, home runs, runs batted in, slugging percentage, and runs scored, but Davis ranks second or third in all five of those categories in becoming a legitimate middle-of-the-order threat in the lineup.

His 12 home runs and 60 strikeouts in 211 at-bats entering Monday night aren’t overly surprising given Davis’ reputation when the Orioles acquired him in the Koji Uehara trade last July, but his .294 average defies what we saw over his last three years in Texas where Davis went from looking like a future star in 2008 to a player fitting the mold of a “Quad-A” hitter before being dealt.

The raw power has never come into question — evident by his broken-bat homer to right field off Pittsburgh reliever Tommy Watson last Wednesday — as Davis hit 17 home runs and batted .285 in 295 at-bats during his rookie season with the Rangers in 2008. However, the left-handed slugger quickly earned the reputation of a hitter who struck out too much, didn’t walk enough, and struggled to handle plus-fastballs in the major leagues. Those flaws led his batting average to plummet to .238 in 2009 and .192 in 2010, causing Davis to bounce back and forth between the Rangers and Triple A in his final three years in Texas.

It was difficult to project Davis as anything more than a less-patient, less-powerful version of Reynolds entering the season, which didn’t speak highly for his potential when considering how flawed Reynolds is as a player.

In 2012, Davis hasn’t made any dramatic changes to his overall approach — 60 strikeouts to just 13 walks — but his improvement against plus-fastballs has led to the substantial increase in average. A career .204 hitter in 255 career at-bats against power pitchers (those in the top third in the league in strikeouts plus walks) entering 2012, Davis has handled them at a .286 rate in 42 at-bats this season.

Davis has also handled left-handed pitching at a far more successful clip, batting .327 in 53 plate appearances against southpaws in 2012 after hitting only .236 against lefties in 275 career at-bats entering 2012.

While his high strikeout and low walk totals aren’t indicative of a hitter that will continue to hover around the .300 mark, Davis has been a model of consistency through his first 57 games this season. Aside from an abysmal seven-game stretch in May in which he went 3-for-28 and struck out 14 times, the left-hander has consistently sat somewhere between .290 and .310 as we reach the final two weeks of June. His .355 batting average for balls put in play indicates Davis has been fortunate, but it’s actually lower than the .366 combined clip he posted last year for the Rangers and Orioles.

When seeing the ball well, Davis shows exceptional power to straightaway center and the opposite field has eight of his 12 home runs have traveled in either of those directions.

After Markakis was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a broken hamate bone, manager Buck Showalter turned to Davis to hold down the No. 3 spot in the order as the Orioles were depleted even further offensively. He’s hit only .206 in 34 at-bats batting third, but the lineup shift could present an interesting decision for Showalter when Markakis returns — projected to be some time during the next homestand, according to the right fielder.

Should Davis remain around the .300 mark, would you consider keeping him in the third spot and moving Markakis to the No. 2 slot? The move would allow Showalter to drop J.J. Hardy in the order, which would make sense with the shortstop hitting only .253 despite 11 home runs.

Whatever the Baltimore skipper decides, it’s a good problem to have.

For a team suffering its fair share of injuries and not receiving the same power numbers it enjoyed from Reynolds a season ago, Davis’ emergence has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season.

His willingness to do whatever is asked of him reflects the spirit of the 2012 Orioles.

Need someone to pitch? Not a problem.

You want to put me in right field in a National League ballpark, even though I’ve never played there in the big leagues? Sure thing.

Whatever it takes to win.

Much like watching the Orioles, you keep waiting and wondering if it’s going to last, but Davis has given no indication of slowing down any time soon.

And he just might be realizing the potential so many saw in him when he first arrived in the big leagues.

 

 

 

 

 

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 22 May 2012 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: Golf-PGA Tour Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial (Thursday & Friday 3pm live on Golf Channel Saturday & Sunday 3pm live on CBS. All golf from Ft. Worth, TX), Champions Tour Senior PGA Championship (Thursday & Friday 3pm live on Golf Channel Saturday & Sunday 3pm live on NBC. All golf from Benton Harbor, MI); High School Lacrosse: MPSSAA Class 2A/1A Final-Fallston vs. South Carroll (Tuesday 6pm UMBC Stadium), Class 4A/3A Final-Westminster vs. South River (Wednesday 4pm UMBC Stadium), Class 3A/2A Final-Hereford vs. Glenelg (Wednesday 8pm UMBC Stadium); WNBA-Tulsa Shock @ Washington Mystics (Wednesday 7pm Verizon Center)

10. Drake (Friday 7pm Verizon Center); One Direction (Thursday 7:30pm Patriot Center); Corey Smith (Friday 8pm Rams Head Live); Jason Isbell (Saturday 1pm Rams Head on Stage); Garbage (Wednesday 7pm 9:30 Club); Collective Soul (Wednesday 8pm Fillmore Silver Spring); Thrice (Wednesday 7:30pm Howard Theatre); John Mayer “Born and Raised” and Garbage “Not Your Kind of People” available in stores/on iTunes (Tuesday)

You know that I’m a “money over everything, money on my mind” type of guy, right?

I used to have the biggest crush on Shirley Manson. Hell, I probably still have  huge crush on Shirley Manson…

If you don’t want to go see Collective Soul we probably wouldn’t be much of friends…

John Mayer is apparently doing country music now. This is a classic example of when “success just simply isn’t enough.” See below.

9. Men in Black III” and “Chernobyl Diaries” open in theaters (Friday); Bob Marley (Wednesday-Sunday DC Improv); Cedric The Entertainer (Saturday 8pm Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric); Brew at the Zoo (Saturday & Sunday Maryland Zoo in Baltimore)

There’s simply no chance MIB3 is something I’ll want to go see. And while Cedric the Entertainer is funny, I’d rather talk about beer.

I have no idea whether or not Flying Dog Brewery will be unleashing canned Underdog Atlantic Lager on the Zoo this weekend, but I DO know that the campaign they used to roll it out in our nation’s capital was simply fantastic…

Brilliant.

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

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Top 10 Baseball Distractions

Posted on 15 May 2012 by Glenn Clark

Honorable Mention: WNBA-Chicago Sky @ Washington Mystics (Saturday 7pm Verizon Center); Mixed Martial Arts: UFC on FUEL TV 3-”Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung vs. Dustin Poirier (Tuesday 8pm from Patriot Center live on FUEL TV); Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix Final-Josh Barnett vs. Daniel Cormier (Saturday 10pm from San Jose live on Showtime); Bellator Fighting Championships 69 (Friday 8pm from Lake Charles, LA live on MTV2); Golf: PGA Tour HP Byron Nelson Championship (Thursday & Friday 3pm live on Golf Channel, Saturday & Sunday 3pm live on CBS. All golf from Irving, TX), LPGA Tour Sybase Match Play Championship (Thursday & Friday 6:30pm Saturday 3pm Sunday 4pm from Gladstone, NJ live on Golf Channel); Pro Lacrosse: MLL Chesapeake Bayhawks @ Hamilton Nationals (Friday 11am from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada live on ESPN3.com); Tennis: ATP Tour & WTA Tour Internazionali BNL d’Italia (Tuesday-Saturday 6am Sunday 7:30am from Rome live on Tennis Channel); Women’s College Lacrosse: NCAA Tournament-Loyola @ Maryland (Saturday 12pm Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex)

10. Infieldfest feat. Maroon 5, Wiz Khalifa, Little Big Town, The Darkness (Saturday 11am Pimlico Race Course); New Edition (Sunday 7pm 1st Mariner Arena); Black Keys/Arctic Monkeys (Friday 6:30pm Merriweather Post Pavilion), Lucinda Williams/Drive-By Truckers (Saturday 6:30pm Merriweather Post Pavilion), Lady Antebellum/Darius Rucker (Sunday 5:30pm Merriweather Post Pavilion); Styx/REO Speedwagon/Ted Nugent (Friday 7pm Jiffy Lube Live); Buckcherry/Foxy Shazam (Thursday 7:30pm Power Plant Live), Mr. Greengenes (Friday 8pm Power Plant Live); 2 Skinnee J’s/All Mighty Senators (Friday 8pm Rams Head Live); Kenny Wayne Shepherd (Tuesday 8pm Rams Head on Stage, Thursday 8pm Howard Theatre); Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros (Tuesday 7pm 9:30 Club), SOJA (Friday 7pm Saturday 8pm 9:30 Club); Fishbone (Thursday 7pm State Theatre); Less Than Jake/Ballyhoo! (Friday 8pm Rock N Roll Hotel); Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival feat. Jonny Lang, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Big Head Todd and the Monsters (Saturday & Sunday Sandy Point State Park); Justin Jones & The Driving Rain (Monday 7pm Ottobar); Night of 1000 Dylans (Friday 7:30pm Creative Alliance); Tenacious D “Rize of the Fenix” available in stores/on iTunes (Tuesday)

Totally underrated Black Keys tune? “I Got Mine.” See you at MPP Friday night…

If Maroon 5 promised to not play a song they’ve released in the last 10 years I’d be excited to see them Saturday. But if they did nothing but tunes from “Songs About Jane” I would be in…

If you haven’t seen Darius Rucker play country music, you’re going to have to trust me. He kicks a little ass…

I’m hoping Justin Jones will stop by the studio Monday. He’s quite talented…

9. Brian Regan (Friday & Saturday Warner Theatre); John Henton (Thursday-Saturday Baltimore Comedy Factory); Bobby Slayton (Thursday-Sunday DC Improv); “The Dictator” (Wednesday), “Battleship” and “Crooked Arrows” (Friday) open in theaters; “The Grey” available on Blu-Ray/DVD (Tuesday); Preakness Crab Derby (Thursday 12pm Lexington Market); Preakness Frog Hop (Wednesday 12pm Patterson Park)

Crab races? Okay I guess. MUCH more kickass? PIG races.

And as far as the frog hop goes, I think you already know which frog I’ll be pulling for…

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Lundqvist dominant for Rangers in Game 7 win

Posted on 13 May 2012 by WNST Staff

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With Orioles rotation in flux, Chen represents surest commodity right now

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With Orioles rotation in flux, Chen represents surest commodity right now

Posted on 10 May 2012 by Luke Jones

BALTIMORE — After four weeks of quality starting pitching that earned them their best start since the 2005 season, the Orioles suddenly find their rotation filled with question marks.

Opening Day starter Jake Arrieta has been inconsistent, Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter have been more bad than good, and Jason Hammel — the best starter on the staff through the season’s first month — is now battling a right knee injury that forced manager Buck Showalter to scratch him from Thursday’s start in hopes that he can return to the hill Monday or Tuesday and avoid the disabled list.

Meanwhile, the starter the Orioles knew the least about entering the season has suddenly become their surest thing. Pitching the front-end of Thursday’s doubleheader against a Rangers lineup that had pounded Baltimore pitching for 24 runs in the first two games of the series, Taiwanese rookie Wei-Yin Chen didn’t blink.

All you needed to know about Chen’s mentality against the two-time American League champions came in the first inning against Josh Hamilton, who was making his first plate appearance since hitting four home runs on Tuesday night. Instead of nibbling on the outside edge of the plate, Chen quickly got ahead 0-2 before buzzing a fastball right under Hamilton’s chin.

The purpose pitched worked as Hamilton flailed badly on the next pitch, a low-and-away breaking ball to end the first inning. It was a sign of things to come as Chen completed the best outing of his brief major league career, pitching 7 2/3 innings while allowing two earned runs and six hits to improve to 3-0 on the season with the Orioles’ 6-5 win in the opener of a straight doubleheader.

“Yeah, definitely, this was my best outing,” Chen said through his interpreter. “This was definitely the best outing of this year.”

Not only did Chen lower his earned run average to an impressive 2.68, but he saved a bullpen that had to work a bit extra in the nightcap after Hunter struggled through six innings while giving up four earned runs in a 7-3 loss.

After receiving an extra day of rest due to Wednesday’s rainout, Chen threw 103 pitches and didn’t seem to struggle as much after reaching the 85-pitch barrier that’s often signaled the end of his effectiveness in several starts. Normally lacking overwhelming stuff, Chen’s fastball topped 93 mph when it normally sits right around 90. In what’s become a pattern for the 26-year-old through his first six starts, he changed speeds and had excellent command, keeping Texas hitters off balance throughout the afternoon.

“Wei-Yin was a difference-maker today to get that deep in the game and against obviously a good lineup,” Showalter said. “He was outstanding. He was sharp with his breaking ball, the extra days’ rest. It seems like he had a little bit more finish on his fastball. He was a difference-maker for us today, and it won’t be forgotten.”

While Chen isn’t a rookie in the traditional sense when you consider his experiences pitching in Taiwan and Japan, his polish has been impressive as he looks to have a plan for every hitter — unlike many of the young pitchers to come to Baltimore and struggle over the last several seasons. He’s allowed three or fewer runs in each start and the competition he’s faced hasn’t exactly been a cakewalk with early encounters against the Yankees and the Red Sox before dominating the Rangers on Thursday.

Of course, even Chen admits the mystery surrounding his ability and how it projects at the major league level has worked to his benefit so far, but it’s tough to discredit what he was able to do to a red-hot Texas lineup.

“Because I’m a new guy, they don’t know me that much,” Chen said. “But, on the other hand, I felt really, really good today, and I had really good command and everything was working. I didn’t think about it too much, I just went pitch-by-pitch today.”

As impressive as Chen has been, he’ll need to make adjustments as American League teams begin to see him for the second and third times. Zach Britton learned that the hard way a year ago when his rookie season began crumbling after looking like a strong Rookie of the Year candidate during the first two months of the season.

Even so, Chen shows the maturity of a pitcher with a plan every time he takes the mound. He doesn’t do anything to overwhelm you, but the results have been exactly what the Orioles were looking for — and badly needed on Thursday.

“We’re still learning about him,” Showalter said. “Considering the competition and the need, [his start] certainly seemed pretty crisp for us.”

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