By Peter Schmuck
The Baltimore Sun
3:44 PM EDT, March 9, 2014
SARASOTA, Fla. -- The Orioles' power-packed lineup has gotten a lot of attention over the past couple seasons, and it looks like the hitters aren’t ready to surrender the stage to the upgraded pitching staff.
In two games against the Boston Red Sox on Saturday and Sunday’s 9-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at Ed Smith Stadium, the Orioles combined for 29 runs and 42 hits to sweep the weekend.
The Orioles also routed the Philadelphia Phillies, 15-4, on Friday after beating the Minnesota Twins, 11-5, on Wednesday.
It doesn’t get much better than that.
Orioles first baseman Chris Davis remained hot in the win over the Pirates. He was 3-for-3 with an opposite-field home run that cleared everything in left-center field. Shortstop J.J. Hardy also homered, while right fielder Nick Markakis and second baseman Jonathan Schoop stayed on a Grapefruit League roll with two hits apiece.
If it seems like everybody is sizzling, that’s not far from fact. Davis, Markakis and Schoop combined to go 7-for-9 over the first five innings Sunday and are batting a combined .565 in exhibition play.
Left-hander Wei-Yin Chen certainly enjoyed the view from the mound, where he pitched three shutout innings and allowed just one hit to get the victory. He got hit around a little bit in his previous outing but allowed just a leadoff single in the first inning to the Pirates' Starling Marte before retiring the remaining eight batters he faced.
“I felt pretty good,’’ Chen said through his interpreter. “I was trying to hit my locations, and overall, I was able to do that, so I’m happy. I think the main difference was that my command was better than the last outing, and I was able to keep the ball low and hit both sides of the plate. I think that was the difference.”
Chen said that “everything’s on track” as he builds endurance after undergoing surgery to remove bone spurs from his knee during the offseason. He was satisfied with his performance, but particularly pleased with one pitch.
“Today, the changeup was the best for me,’’ he said. “The curveball and my slider was not 100 percent yet, so I will try to get a better feel for those pitches in my next few games.”
He also enjoyed the six runs the Orioles scored in the first three innings.
“This is my third year here, and we have always had a very good offense,” he said, “so I’m happy to see them hitting well, and from now on, I’m going to focus on how to condition myself to get ready for the season.”
Left-hander Zach Britton, who took a ball off his glove hand in his previous appearance, returned to the mound in the seventh and pitched a pair of scoreless innings.
Right-hander Steve Johnson pitched a scoreless eighth, and right-hander Josh Stinson closed out the ninth as the Orioles improved their Grapefruit League record to 8-2 -- the best of any American League East team.
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