08/21/08 12:58 AM ET
Orioles break out bats to claim finale
Hernandez, Mora both belt three-run homers; Waters gets win
By Amanda Comak / MLB.com
Chris Waters, the Orioles' third and final member of the current starting rotation, survived a shaky first two innings, and Baltimore's offense got to Clay Buchholz early, putting up 10 runs in the first four innings en route to an 11-6 victory.
Waters and Buchholz suffered similar struggles in the early innings, but their paths diverged when Waters was able to settle down and deliver five full innings of work for the Orioles.
"Waters was able to put a couple of zeros up on the board and he got some command of his fastball," said manager Dave Trembley. "The first inning, he didn't have very good command of anything, and I thought he was basically pitching backwards. Then he established his fastball and got ahead."
The Orioles knocked Buchholz (2-9) out of the game after just 2 1/3 innings, getting five runs off the right-hander, and proceeded to exploit the Red Sox bullpen in much the same manner. David Aardsma, who relieved Buchholz in the third, was given a rude welcome to the game in a hurry when he surrendered a three-run homer to the first batter he faced, catcher Ramon Hernandez. It was the proverbial nail in the coffin for Buchholz, who was optioned to Double-A Portland after the game.
"He didn't use his fastball," Trembley said of Boston's starter. "Him and Waters were exactly the same the first two innings. They were pitching away from contact. If you go back and look at when he was in there, how many fastballs do you think he threw? It was breaking ball, breaking ball, breaking ball. You just don't chase it and then wait until he does throw one -- and then whack it."
The Orioles (61-65) took that strategy to heart. Melvin Mora, who was hit by a pitch in the hand to leadoff the third and came around to score on Hernandez's homer, added a three-run shot of his own off Javier Lopez in the fourth -- all part of an 11-run outburst over the course of four innings for Baltimore. It was the fourth time in the past seven games that the Orioles have been able to plate at least 11 runs. And it happened in a game where there was plenty of pitching to hit -- the two teams combined to throw 390 pitches.
"That team never quits," Hernandez said of the Red Sox (73-54). "That's a pretty good ballclub. They're in second place and that's why they're there -- because they've got a pretty good hitting team. Every hitter they've got knows the strike zone pretty well, and no one gives up any at-bats. They really come up and try to get the best at-bat they can, and that's what makes it tough. They never quit in a game, so we've got to keep focusing and keep the same intensity of the game."
The Orioles were also exceptionally patient at the plate, working nine walks off Red Sox pitching -- and two hit batters -- and reaping the benefit when five of those free passes were cashed in.
Waters (2-0) allowed five runs -- four earned -- on eight hits and three walks. After settling down, the lone blemish on the rookie's night was a solo-homer to Jason Bay in the fifth.
"I started trying to throw more over the plate and go after people -- hence the home run," Waters explained. "We're up six, I'm going after him right there."
And given a six-run lead to work with, the Orioles relievers were visibly better on the mound than their Red Sox counterparts. Dennis Sarfate, making his first appearance out of the bullpen since July 25, pitched two innings of scoreless relief, and Kam Mickolio made his Major League debut in the eighth inning, striking out two and allowing one run. Jim Johnson came in for the ninth, allowing just one hit.
"Those three guys that came in at the end all looked like Paul Bunyan," Trembley said. "They are big guys, coming in throwing over the top and throwing hard. That's what you got to do. ... I liked seeing the arms I saw the last three guys that went in there. That's power baseball. It's not trying to trick anybody. You got to be able to throw your fastball and you got to be able to command your fastball, and those guys did that at the end."
Amanda Comak is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.