By Steve DeClue
The Orioles bounced back from Sunday night’s disappointing loss against the Yankees with a potentially series-saving win Monday. Now is a good time to take a look at the players that have helped and hurt the Baltimore cause throughout the first two games of the ALDS.
Jason Hammel – In his first start in weeks, Hammel held the Yankees to just two runs in nearly six innings of work. He also appeared to be working with a strike zone that was significantly smaller than the one counterpart C.C. Sabathia was able to use to his advantage. Hammel gave the O’s a chance to win against the Yankees ace, which is all you can really ask of him.
Wei-Yin Chen – A rookie making his first postseason start, Chen pitched into the seventh inning and earned the victory with his team’s back against the wall. He allowed eight hits, but was able to pitch in and out of trouble throughout the night, leaving to a nice ovation from the crowd.
Orioles fans – After waiting 15 years for a playoff game, O’s fans had to sit through two rain delays, including one that lasted 2 1/2 hours. The cold, damp weather didn’t drive away the fans and it didn’t seem to curb their enthusiasm for finally being back in the playoffs, either. TBS sideline reporter Craig Sager had a lot of complimentary things to say about the crowd. He said the noise measured significantly higher than the loudest NBA arena. He also added that it was the loudest he had heard any sports venue in a long time. That’s certainly a big tribute to Baltimore’s fans.
Darren O’ Day – Summoned in a tie game with runners on first and second and no outs in Game 1, O’ Day got the Orioles out of yet another jam unscathed. This comes just two days after tossing two scoreless innings against the Rangers in the wild card game to help bridge the gap to closer Jim Johnson. O’Day turned around and got a key out in Game 2 as well.
Brian Matusz – It’s never been a question of talent with Matusz, but repeating his delivery and maintaining his velocity as a starter was a struggle for him. Since going to the bullpen, he became a nightmare for left-handed hitters. He has gained a lot of confidence and is now pitching almost as well against right-handed batters. He pitched a scoreless inning in Game 1, retiring the likes of Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson. It was more of the same in Game 2, as Matusz continued to mow down New York’s star players in high pressure situations.
Chris Davis – The talent has always been there for Davis, but putting it together on a consistent basis was always an issue. He has found a home in Baltimore, and it seems like his confidence has grown exponentially over the past few weeks. Right now, most O’s fans would say they are most confident when Davis is at the plate. He was 2-4 and scored a run in Game 1. He also threw out Mark Teixeira trying to stretch a single into a double and made a nice catch on a fly ball that ended up in foul territory deep down the right field line. David then went 2-4 in Game 2 with one hit driving in two runs.
Nate McLouth – He isn’t a guy that hits for a high average or a ton of power, but he has come up with key hits since joining the club. In Game 1, McLouth helped the O’s erase an early deficit with a two-run single, their only runs on the night. He also cut off a ball from getting to the wall in Game 2 that would have likely been a double.
Jim Johnson – Johnson was brought on in the ninth inning of Game 1 in a tie game and left down five runs. He was dominant much of the season, but when he has blown saves, it’s been ugly. Game 1 was no exception. Johnson surrendered the game-winning home run to Russell Martin, then watched as some weakly hit, well-placed balls put the game out of reach. He deserves credit for bouncing back with a 1-2-3 inning in Game 2 to pick up the save, which should build confidence for the remainder of the series.
Adam Jones – Jones carried the O’s at times this year, especially with his late-game heroics. He cooled considerably down the stretch, and it appears he might be pressing now. Jones had a runner on second base with no outs in the eighth inning with the score tied in Game 1, worked the count in his favor and then struck out. The O’s never got the run home, and the Yankees went on to score five runs the following inning and win the game. Game 2 wasn’t much better, as he managed one hit but failed to drive in any runs.
Steve DeClue is a freelance writer covering all things Baltimore Orioles. His work can be found on Examiner.com.