The Orioles had a few flashback moments on the basepaths Wednesday night against the Toronto Blue Jays at Camden Yards. They ran their way out of at least one potential big inning early against a pitcher making his major league debut by being a little too bold.
Fortunately for Brad Bergesen, the Orioles continued to experience the kind of moments that have become the norm under new manager Buck Showalter, and continued to make the kind of plays that point to a much brighter baseball future in Baltimore.
Sparked by some dazzling defensive plays, including a pair by shortstop Cesar Izturis and another by right fielder Nick Markakis, Bergesen delivered his second complete game in a little over a month and the Orioles, after not beating the Blue Jays in their first 12 meetings this season, completed a three-game sweep with a 3-1 victory before an announced crowd of 13,651.
In a game that took one hour and 55 minutes from to complete -- the quickest Orioles game this season by 10 minutes and the first sub-two-hour game since May 2005 -- Bergesen (7-10) improved to 4-1 in eight starts under Showalter and the Orioles (58-88) improved their record to 26-15 since Showalter took over.
It was the team's ninth win in its past 11 games and 13th in the past 17.
"The tempo was great," Showalter said of Bergesen. "Good plays seem to happen behind guys that have that type of tempo in the game. Izzy put on a clinic tonight, just about in every phase you want to see. Bergy was the story tonight, but I've got to tell you Izzy is a close second."
Said third baseman Ty Wigginton, who immediately followed an error in the first after bobbling a roller by Vernon Wells by throwing out Wells at home plate after a double by Lyle Overbay, "The reason we won tonight was Brad Bergesen, plain and simple."
Bergesen outpitched Kyle Drabek, the 22-year-old right-hander who came to Toronto as the prime chip in the deal that sent ace Roy Halladay to the Philadelphia Phillies. Drabek, the son of former major league pitcher Doug Drabek, who finished his 13-year career with the Orioles in 1998, gave up three runs and nine hits in six innings.
The Orioles might have knocked out Drabek even earlier had they not been caught on the base paths in the third and fifth innings. After walking on four pitches to lead off the third, Itzuris was thrown out at home after being given the green light by third-base coach Gary Allenson following a double off the right field wall by Brian Roberts. Wigginton was also thrown out trying to stretch a single with one out in the fifth. Luke Scott followed with a single.
But Bergesen made those second-guess opportunities moot by turning in his seventh quality start in his past nine outings.
After staking the Blue Jays to a 1-0 lead on Jose Bautista's major-league leading 47th home run -- tying the current Toronto slugger with George Bell for the single-season franchise record -- Bergesen shut down the Blue Jays. He retired 20 of the next 24 batters he faced and after surrendering a pair of two-out singles in the ninth, getting Overbay to ground out back to the mound to end the game.
"It felt really good," Bergesen said. "Our team has been playing so well, it makes it so much better. Our defense tonight was outstanding. Izzy was phenomenal, some of those plays.he made. I tip my hat, he really helped out tonight."
The highlights included a backhanded stop on a sharply hit one-hop grounder in the hole by Adam Lind in the fifth and a diving catch on a line drive by Overbay in the seventh. Bergesen helped his cause by starting a double-play after giving up back-to-back singles to start the sixth.
"That was a big, big play right there," said Izturis, who took the relay throw from Bergesen. "They hit it up the middle and we were able to turn a double play."
But Itzuris said that the difference with these Orioles is that they are playing sound fundamental baseball in all facets of the game.
"Everybody is doing their job, you know what I mean," he said. "The defense and offense and the pitching staff they have been great. To sweep the Blue Jays makes you feel good. You [think about] these three games, enjoy it and then come back Friday [when the Yankees come to town for a three-game series]."
Markakis also made a great defensive play, making a leaping catch in the second on fly ball in the second by Aaron Hill that appeared to be heading off the wall. Wells returned the favor in the sixth when the Blue Jays center fielder robbed Adam Jones of a potential home run.
"I can't say enough about the starting pitching and the bullpen," the Orioles' Luke Scott said. "We've been getting good efforts on the mound. Guys are throwing strikes; walks are down; they're pounding the strike zone; they're pitching aggressively; they've got more confidence out there. They're really helping us out offensively when they do that."
Said Showalter, " I hate to keep pointing back to pitching but -- I do like pointing back to pitching -- when you see guys giving you a chance to win and giving you a chance to defend, you can't defend a ball in the seats. You can't defend balls that are flying all over the park with a lot of authority. Just like, give us a chance to win, give us a chance to defend."