Orioles manager Buck Showalter had confidence that Nolan Reimold’s bat would eventually come around. Even though Reimold’s batting average dipped below .200 just two days ago as he struggled to find a comfort zone splitting time between designated hitter and left field, Showalter remained patient.
And it was patience at the plate that led Reimold to the game-winning hit in the Orioles’ 7-5 interleague win Saturday afternoon in Game 1 of their day-night doubleheader against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
With the bases loaded and one out in the eighth inning, Reimold battled off a low outside pitch from Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario into right field for a two-run double to break open a tied game.
“I challenge anybody to stand up there and try to hit that ball down the right field corner,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. “That's tough.”
The hit culminated Baltimore’s comeback from an early 4-0 hole, the largest deficit the Orioles have overcome this season.
And Reimold’s game-winning double capped a three-RBI day, adding a solo homer in the fourth inning that was his second homer in as many games.
“I’m not necessarily trying to hit it down the line,” Reimold said. “What I’ve been working on is just staying over the ball and not pulling off of it. It was a pretty good pitch. I was able to just let it get deep and stay over it. That’s probably the only place I could hit the ball hard with that pitch. Most of the time if I try to pull that or not let it get deep, I’m not going to hit it out. I’m going to roll it over.”
Showalter’s patience with Reimold, who is 3-for-7 with two homers and five RBIs over his past two games, appears to be paying off. Reimold missed all but 13 games last season with a herniated disc that required season-ending surgery to fuse two vertebrae in his neck and he was limited in the field this spring with soreness in his throwing shoulder.
“I'm happy for him,” Showalter said. “I'll tell you, the first week in spring training, even Brady [Anderson], who's such a big supporter of all our guys, didn't think he was going to make the start of the season. But the last two weeks he felt great.
“It's like I told him the other day, they corrected it,” Showalter added about Reimold’s 2012 injury. “I don't think he's worried about it. It's not ever going to be exactly what it was with his range of motion. He's had to make a couple adjustments in the way he sights up to get two eyes there because he doesn't have quite the same mobility with his neck that he had, but it's getting a little better every day.”
Reimold’s late-inning hit prevented the Orioles from playing extra innings in the opening game of Saturday’s doubleheader, which allowed the team to save some of its pitching for the nightcap against the Dodgers.
Orioles right-hander Jason Hammel, who battled past a 32-pitch first inning in which he yielded a three-run homer to Andre Ethier five hitters into the game that landed on Eutaw Street, battled to throw six innings. That also helped save the bullpen, which appeared would be in the game early when Hammel’s pitch count was at 51 after two innings. Of the first 10 batters Hammel faced, he allowed six to reach base.
“After I was [over] 50 pitches through two, I was like, ‘No, not on a doubleheader. I’ve got to get deep,’” Hammel said. “That would have been the worst thing to do, to kill the bullpen on the first game. I was pretty happy with it over all.”
Chris Davis, who had three hits on the day, opened the eighth inning by just missing a home run by inches when he hit a ball off Paco Rodriguez that hit off the top of the center-field wall for a double. Belisario walked J.J. Hardy and both runners moved into scoring position on a passed ball. The Dodgers then intentionally walked pinch hitter Nate McLouth with first base open.
That’s when Reimold slapped a double over first base and into right field for the game-winning hit. He also hit a solo homer in the fourth inning, his second in as many games.
Closer Jim Johnson then retired the Dodgers in the ninth in order for his seventh save.
The Orioles took a 5-4 lead in the sixth, but that lead disappeared after a rocky seventh inning for reliever Pedro Strop.
Strop, making his first appearance since allowing three runs — including two homers — on Tuesday, struggled again Saturday in the seventh. After issuing a one-out walk to Mark Ellis, Matt Kemp hit a broken-bat single past Davis at first, allowing Ellis to third. With cleanup hitter Adrian Gonzalez at the plate, Strop uncorked a wild pitch in the dirt that allowed Ellis to score the tying run.
But lefty reliever Brian Matusz saved Strop and the Orioles, stranding two baserunners. Matusz has now stranded all 21 inherited runners since moving to the bullpen late last season.
Matusz retired lefty Skip Schumaker for the first out in the eighth and Darren O’Day overcame a hit batter in the inning, retiring Justin Sellers with a pop up and striking out Carl Crawford to end the inning.
Trailing 5-4 in the sixth, Hardy’s sacrifice fly to right scored Matt Wieters to tie the game and moved Davis to third. Steve Pearce then singled home the go-ahead run for his third hit in seven at-bats after opening the season 0-for-15.
The Orioles dealt South Korean left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu his roughest big-league start. Ryu entered the day having allowed just six runs in his first three major league starts.
“He's throwing his changeup anytime in the count - 3-0, 2-0,” Showalter said of Ryu. “There's no fastball count with him. You can see why they're so excited about him. He's got a great feel for pitching.”
But he allowed five runs on eight hits on Saturday, including a pair of homers — Hardy’s two-run shot in the second inning and Reimold’s solo homer in the fourth — after yielding just one homer in his first three starts.
Showalter said Reimold’s fourth-inning homer off Ryu, which made the score 4-3, was perhaps the biggest run of the afternoon.