By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
12:07 AM EDT, April 29, 2012
The constant rain falling on Camden Yards presented an inviting opportunity for the Orioles against the Athletics on Saturday night.
If the Baltimore bats could find holes in the soggy outfield, the Orioles could take their chances on the base paths, forcing Oakland's outfielders to show they would throw them out with a heavy, wet baseball.
And that's what the Orioles did early -- taking extra bases in a game-breaking five-run second inning and giving starter Wei-Yin Chen all the run support he would need for his second major league win in an 10-1 Orioles victory, tying the team's season high for runs and giving Baltimore its largest margin of victory this season.
The win, combined with a loss by Tampa Bay, gave the Orioles (13-8) a share of the American League East lead with the Rays.
Chen overcame a 27-pitch first inning in which he stranded the bases loaded to give the Orioles their 12th start of six or more innings. They improved their record to 11-1 in those games.
Chen (2-0) could relax after seeing Orioles base runners aggressive, though not reckless, especially in a five-run second inning that featured six hits -- all singles. When presented with the extra base, the Orioles gladly obliged, and it snowballed on an Oakland team that quickly fell into a insurmountable hole early in the game.
"It's one thing to be aggressive, it's another thing to be kind of smart," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "The situation presented itself. Push the envelope a little bit. There were a lot of good at-bats there. The outs we were making were productive, too. That's how you end up with a big inning."
The Orioles' fifth win in their past six games came in front of an announced crowd of 26,926 that braved bad weather to honor Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, who had a statue unveiled in his honor.
And with a win in today's series finale, the Orioles would complete their six-game homestand with a 5-1 record before heading on the road for their first trips to New York and Boston this week.
Chen's pitch count was high early -- he reached the 50-pitch mark after just 2 1/3 innings -- but the Taiwanese lefty settled in after that, throwing a big league career-high seven innings.
Chen retired 11 of the final 13 batters he faced -- the one blemish being Jonny Gomes' solo homer in the sixth inning. He allowed just six hits and one run on the night, striking out four and walking two.
"For the first two innings, I am trying to find where the strike zone is at," Chen said through interpreter Tim Lin. "And like the third inning, I just let it go, let it pitch. I don't think it changed that much. I was getting strike one first. … I feel like in the late innings I feel like I got my tempo, I got my timing, everything was doing good."
In four major league starts, Chen, signed in the offseason to a three-year, $11.4 million deal, has given the Orioles what they've needed -- quality starts. He lowered his season ERA to 2.22 and hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of his starts, going at least 51/3 innings each time out.
"I know down deep, his goal is nine," Showalter said. "But anytime we can get in that range there with a lead, all clubs like their chances, anytime you can decrease the amount of outs you have to get out of the bullpen. He had an extra day [of rest] this time, and he has an extra day next time out. He's got some deception. We're still familiarizing ourselves with him a little bit, but so far, so good. He's throwing the ball well, giving us a chance to win."
Of the Orioles' 14 hits on the night, just two were for extra bases.
One was Chris Davis' moon-shot solo homer in the seventh, his fourth home run of the season, onto Eutaw Street beyond the right-field flag court.
The homer, which came on a first-pitch fastball from Oakland reliever and former Orioel Jim Miller, was Davis' first homer onto Eutaw Street and the 59th to land there in Camden Yards' 21 seasons. The 25th homer by an Oriole hitter to reach the landmark, it was the first since Luke Scott's on June 7.
"I got it pretty good," said Davis, who tied a career high with a four RBIs. "In that situation, I was just looking for one pitch. It's kind of the advantage of being ahead at that point in the game. I hit it really well. I'm glad it stayed fair."
The Orioles batted around in the second against Oakland starter Tyson Ross. After Adam Jones led off with a single -- the first of four singles to open the inning -- he went to third on Wilson Betemit's single to right.
Davis' single to left plated Jones, and Oakland catcher Kurt Suzuki's throwing error while trying to catch Betemit leaning off second moved both base runners into scoring position.
Ronny Paulino then hit a two-run single to center that plated both runners and gave the Orioles a 3-0 lead. Paulino moved to second on the throw home and to third on Ryan Flaherty's groundout.
The Orioles got back-to-back singles from No. 9 hitter Robert Andino -- which scored Paulino -- and Nolan Reimold. J.J. Hardy's sacrifice fly scored Andino to give the Orioles a 5-0 lead.
"I love being aggressive on the bases," Davis said. "Anytime you can put pressure on the other team to make a play, it's really playing into your hands, and we were able to catch a few breaks. The conditions weren't good for throwing the baseball tonight, so we were very aggressive, and it paid off for us."
The Orioles battered Ross (1-1), who allowed nine runs on 11 hits, both career highs, in four-plus innings of work, hurting an AL-best 2.68 team ERA for Oakland (11-11) heading into the night.
Betemit added an RBI double in the third inning, and Jones' third hit of the night -- a run-scoring single in the fifth -- put the Orioles up 7-0. That was followed two batters later by a two-run single by Davis, who also had three hits on the night.
Chen gave way to right-hander Luis Ayala, who pitched two scoreless relief innings, allowing just one hit.
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