By Eduardo A. Encina
The Baltimore Sun
12:16 PM EDT, July 20, 2013
ARLINGTON, Texas – Everyone who follows the Orioles knows that this team will go as far as its pitching takes it.
And don’t look now, but the starting rotation is beginning to put together a nice resume.
Wei-Yin Chen’s outing in Friday’s 3-1 win over Texas was the Orioles’ fifth quality start in their past six games. They’ve won all five of those games and have allowed just one run in three of them.
It’s obviously a small sample size, but it shows that the rotation is starting to come around. As expected Chen – who has allowed one run or less in each of his past three outings and five of his past seven – will stabilize the rotation. And Scott Feldman, who has tossed two quality starts in three outings as an Oriole, will be a significant upgrade.
Now if only Jason Hammel can find his form of last season. Hammel was working on his mechanics with pitching coach Rick Adair in the visiting bullpen of Rangers Ballpark about 3 ½ hours before Friday’s game, repeating his delivery without a ball.
Friday’s win was one that Orioles manager Buck Showalter seemed especially proud of. He preaches the value of doing little things right. And with the exception of one play – when Jeff Baker stole third on a walk when he beat Manny Machado to the bag – the Orioles won all the little battles.
Nick Markakis made a tremendous homer-stealing catch on Adrian Beltre in right field. And J.J. Hardy’s pinpoint relay throw to third caught Jeff Baker off third base.
Hardy said he relied on the crowd noise. He said when it peaked it must have meant that Baker was making a wide turn around third and heading home. It wasn’t flashy, but it might saved the Orioles the game. If Hardy doesn’t make that play, at the very best, the Rangers have the tying run in scoring position with one out.
Showalter put it well:
“A lot of people turn and directly throw the ball to the plate,” Showalter said. "J.J.’s head is on a swivel and he knows where people are. He makes hard plays look easy where a lot of other people do it the other way around. You’re not going to see him on the Web Gems, but he makes a mental Web Gem every night.”
Showalter said Henry Urrutia will make his major league debut tonight in Texas. He will likely start at DH. I’m looking forward to seeing that.
Urrutia is a unique talent. He has a far way to go to be mentioned in the same breath as fellow Cubans Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig, but the ball flies off his bat and he manages to get incredible backspin on it. He apparently drew a lot of notice while taking batting practice during Thursday’s workout here.
I haven’t seen much of Urrutia personally. I did see him homer on the first pitch of his first home at-bat at Double-A Bowie, but it definitely seems like he can help the Orioles out in the DH spot. The Orioles’ .194 batting average from the DH position ranks last among AL clubs.
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