O's take opener behind Waters' gem
Rookie starter throws first shutout, allowing four hits
TORONTO -- Chris Waters had spent his last seven starts trying to live up to his Major League debut. On Aug. 5 in Anaheim, the Orioles left-hander spun eight shutout innings of one-hit baseball to collect a victory in his very first game.
The following seven starts had been a different story though, as Waters struggled to maintain any level of consistency on the mound.
In Tuesday's affair at Rogers Centre, Waters managed to right his own ship, delivering a masterful shutout as the Orioles blanked the Blue Jays, 2-0, before a crowd of 25,746. The victory allowed Baltimore (67-82) to collect back-to-back wins for the first time since posting a three-game win streak from Aug.13-15 against Cleveland and Detroit.
When questioned following the game, Waters had a tough time comparing his big league debut to his latest effort.
"Both of them are a dream come true," Waters said. "For my debut to be as good as it was and then for me to be able to complete the game today with a shutout -- that was special."
What made the game even more special for the 28-year-old Waters was that he was able to reverse an ugly trend. In the seven starts between his first appearance and Tuesday's game, Waters was 1-3 with a 7.00 ERA. During that span, he had allowed 18 walks and 50 hits over just 36 innings.
But Tuesday erased much of those memories.
"He looked like he was in complete control from the first pitch of the game to the end," said Orioles manager Dave Trembley of Waters' effort on Tuesday. "He looked very similar to the one in Anaheim. Just from the standpoint of his delivery, the finish on his pitches. His arm was nice and loose. He didn't get rattled. He never lost his poise."
Waters allowed just four hits, walking one and striking out three. With the help of his strong sinker, accompanied with a side-arm delivery that he occasionally mixed in to surprise Toronto's hitters, Waters did not allow a runner to reach second base until the eighth inning. The southpaw also did not face more than four batters in any one inning. By the end of the game, his season ERA plummeted almost a full run, from 5.73 to 4.75.
"He was really calm," said catcher Ramon Hernandez, who also marveled at Waters' control of the strike zone. "He was getting ahead early a lot of the time. When you get ahead, you get the opposing team to get more aggressive and they might chase more pitches. When they know you're throwing strikes, they are going to come out swinging and if you make pitches, you're going to get quick outs."
The Baltimore offense could not provide much support, but what it did produce, Waters made count. Shortstop Juan Castro led off the third inning with a walk and then scored on an RBI double to left field by Brian Roberts, giving the Orioles a 1-0 lead against Jays starter Shaun Marcum (9-7).
Orioles left fielder Luke Scott added to that lead an inning later, when he launched a 1-0 pitch from reliever John Parrish into the center field stands for his 23rd home run of the season. It was Scott's third home run at Rogers Centre in only six career games.
"I told him before the game he hits good in this ballpark," said Trembley. "I remember the last time we were here, he hit a couple in the seats. The one he hit tonight, that was the real deal. He didn't miss it. To hit it basically straightaway center field, you have got to really get it good."
With Tuesday's contest, the Orioles began a stretch of 13 games against American League East teams including the Jays (80-71), Yankees and Rays, all of which sit above Baltimore in the standings. With the two weeks' worth of games concluding the season, getting off to a good start was vital to the Orioles' hope of finishing the 2008 campaign on a strong note.
"We don't care where we are [in the standings]," said Hernandez, "we're going to try to come out and try to win as many games as we can win. We're going to play hard all the way to the last day. That's our job as professionals. We have got to do that."
David Singh is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.