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Friday morning Orioles observations: Chris Tillman, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, more

By Eduardo A. Encina

The Baltimore Sun

6:54 AM EDT, May 3, 2013

ANAHEIM, Calif.

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The Orioles’ 5-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday night gave them a 5-3 record eight games into this 11-game West Coast road trip.

Perhaps even more important is that the win improved the Orioles’ record to 9-3 when coming off a loss. That means that the Orioles have had back-to-back losses just three times this season. One of those times was this road trip, when they lost the final game against the Oakland Athletics and the first game against the Seattle Mariners.

But the Orioles have avoided those consecutive loss slides that have foiled so many Orioles teams of the past. That’s a good sign.

The Orioles haven’t played well in Anaheim, either. They arrived in Orange County late after flying in from Seattle, but they still managed to grind out a big win Thursday.

And while it’s easy to concentrate on Chris Tillman’s sparkling performance, and rightfully so, I can’t help but think of two key plays that played a huge role in the Orioles’ win.

One had to be Nick Markakis’ throw from right field to throw out Mike Trout at the plate. It was such a big momentum changer early in the game. If Markakis’ throw is just a little off, Trout scores the game’s first run, there are two on and Tillman is looking at possibly a 30-pitch first inning and the short hook that goes with it.

But instead, Markakis rifled the perfect throw that seemed to surprise catcher Matt Wieters and even Trout, who didn’t even slide on the play.

“Nicky made a great throw, and I really couldn’t catch everything out of the side of my eye, whether he just didn’t think there was a play or he just knew he was out,” Wieters said. “Nicky made a great throw, and it was a one hop ball and [Trout] still almost got there, which says how fast he is.

Then there was Adam Jones scoring from first on Markakis’ seventh-inning double to right that gave the Orioles a 3-0 lead. Jones had just fouled a ball off his left shin and hobbled outside the batter’s box before walking it off and then getting a base hit.

But as he rounded the bases full speed, that leg had to be hurting. Jones had the leg wrapped heavily in ice following the game.

“It doesn’t matter if it hurts or not,” Jones shrugged. “You’ve got to run.”

That ended up being a huge run late in the game. And while Jones has had a tough few weeks defensively, there’s no questioning his toughness.

“Adam Jones is a tough hombre,” Showalter said. “He takes a ball off the shin, another one off the foot. You know, go try to poke a ball into right field and then score from first on a double. That’s a challenge. But I think that’s what I think a lot of people miss about Adam. Adam’s a tough guy.

Nate McLouth talked before Thursday’s game about he’s not trying to do too much at the plate, and that’s translating into good at bats. Whatever he’s doing is working. After a two-run homer Thursday, he has three homers in his last five games after hitting none in his first 20.

And seeing production from Nolan Reimold (two singles, two runs) in the bottom of the order can only help the lineup. Showalter often talks about the importance of that nine hole in the lineup, and if Reimold can continue to produce, imagine how dangerous the Orioles lineup can be.