08/11/09 10:46 PM ET
O's edge A's behind Hernandez
Rookie shines as Baltimore ends nine-game skid to Oakland
By Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
Hernandez, who had been knocked out before completing five innings in each of his previous two starts, was a different pitcher on Tuesday. The right-hander struck out three of the first six batters he faced and overcame a key error in the first inning that put a runner on third base. From there, Hernandez kept control of the game.
"I knew I had to redeem myself," said Hernandez, one of four rookies in Baltimore's current starting rotation. "I didn't want to have three straight bad starts. I was just trying to get back on the horse and do well. I was able to change eye levels pretty well tonight. I was able to elevate my fastball and keep my changeup down."
Here's why that's important: Hernandez had lost each of his past two starts in a repeat encounter against a team that he had pitched well against earlier in the season. Oakland represented the third time in his brief career that he's faced a team for the second time, and it's the first time he has managed a win in those circumstances.
It meant even more for his team. Baltimore's victory snapped a nine-game losing skid against the A's, a streak that dated all the way back to the 2007 season. The win was also the Orioles' first one-run win since July 11. Baltimore had lost six straight one-run decisions, a fact manager Dave Trembley knew all too well.
In fact, when Trembley was asked how bad Hernandez needed the win, he co-opted the question.
"I think we all did. I don't think he's the Lone Ranger there," said Trembley. "I read something today before I went out about trials and tribulations and the ability to deal with it. We certainly have been tested. And Hernandez pitched a very good game -- a very, very good game. He was a little animated, too. I liked that."
The A's (50-63) reached Hernandez for a pair of solo home runs -- one by Scott Hairston and one by Adam Kennedy -- but struggled to get any other offense. In fact, if you exclude the home runs, Hernandez (4-4) allowed just one runner to reach scoring position all game and struck out six batters, two more than his previous high.
"I thought he threw the ball well," said backup catcher Chad Moeller. "Good command of the fastball. He made a few mistakes with the breaking ball. We got away with a few and lost one. But as a whole, he threw the ball great. He was able to use the changeup more instead of the breaking ball. It really helped him."
Trembley credited Moeller with calling a good game, but the veteran backstop deflected much of the praise to Hernandez and said they had only been paired once during their shared tenure at Triple-A Norfolk.
"He had a perfect game going and they pulled him in the fourth because he was coming here," said Moeller of that start. "So that was all we were working on. The history wasn't as great as it is with [Chris] Tillman."
The Orioles (47-66) took the game's first lead in the second inning, when Nolan Reimold singled, stole second and scored on a ground out. Baltimore netted three straight hits to lead off the bottom of the fifth, one of which drove home the game-tying run. Adam Jones put Baltimore ahead for good with a groundout to shortstop.
"Both starting pitchers were good," said Trembley, lauding Oakland starter Trevor Cahill. "But what counts is Hernandez was better. And, obviously, we needed one of our starters to step up and give us a quality game, and he did. He just improved with his ability to locate and throw strikes and be aggressive with his fastball."
Brian Roberts had an adventurous night on the basepaths, an evening that included his 12th steal of third base in 12 attempts this season. Roberts was also thrown out at home on a contact play early in the game and made a blunder in the fifth, when he forgot how many outs there were and was doubled up on a popup.
"I told him if we would've lost that game, that probably would've put me over the edge," said Trembley. "Roberts being Roberts, he told me, 'Well, you can't accuse me of not hustling. I would have scored on that play if it had dropped in.' I said, 'I appreciate the levity at this moment, but when that happened, I didn't think it was real funny.' "
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.