We Just Can’t Out-Bop The Orioles (Or The Buzzards)

The Baltimore Orioles own the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.  I just thought I would get that out first and foremost.  Entering this series, Baltimore was 14-2 against Tampa Bay in their last 16 games.  This is a team that was projected to finish below the Devil Rays in this year’s standings.  We’ve beaten the Yankees and Red Sox in two consecutive games, yet we can barely beat the Orioles twice in a season.  We needed this series (or at least one game) to overcome this embarrassment.  We didn’t get the series, but we did get the second game, if that helps very much.  I knew we had little hope in the rubber match because Erik Bedard, along with former Devil Ray Aubrey Huff, absolutely kills this team.  The troubles, for the most part, have continued.

Let’s All Just Focus On The Positive…

-James Shields dropped the opener, despite a decent performance (6 IP, 3 ER, 3 BB, 6 K).  He threw 106 pitches, but one was a three-run home run by Huff, who continues to get booed by our fans.  I’m mixed in my opinion of him.  We traded him away, so he didn’t jump directly to our division rival.  He also had some good years playing here that I’m still appreciative of, but now he bulldozes the Devil Rays time after time.  Hit-or-miss Baltimore starter Daniel Cabrera hit, limiting the opposition to just one run, an RBI single by recently-recalled Ben Zobrist.  He had a decent year at Durham, but he might need just a little more development to bring it up to the Major Leagues.  Carl Crawford also stole his 35th base of the season, #1 in the American League.  Gary Glover, Scott Dohmann and Casey Fossum gave up nothing in 2 2/3 innings.
-The middle game was our vengeance, and easily the best of the series.  Scott Kazmir was reformed as King Kazmir, throwing 7 innings of dominance (1 ER, 2 BB, 9 K) to a bedazzled Orioles lineup.  The team has announced that he is "back".  Hopefully it’s permanent.  Carlos Pena led the offense with a first inning two-run home run, and a consistent scoring attack followed.  Pena, Crawford, Delmon Young, and Akinori Iwamura all had multi-hit games, Young driving in three runs and throwing out a runner at the plate.  Grant Balfour had a perfect eighth inning (for once–injury recovery may finally be complete), and on came Brian Stokes.  Color commentator Joe Magrane hit the nail on the head by stating that Stokes, thanks to recent pitcher acquisitions, would no longer pitch in situations with "the volume turned way up", and would have time to develop pitch command.  He did so in limiting Baltimore to only one more run, and the Devil Rays relieved themselves with a 9-2 victory.  Should Kazmir keep pitching this way, we can only win more games in the years ahead–no more steps in the wrong direction, no more losing to losing teams.
-The third game was a showcase of Erik Bedard’s ownership of this team, as well as another subpar performance from Andy Sonnanstine (3.2 IP, 7 ER).  Fossum had a bad relief appearance, followed by scoreless outings from Juan Salas (now at a 2.95 ERA) and Brian Stokes.  Al Reyes gave up a home run to Melvin Mora, but as I’ve seen and said all season, he pitches better in closer games.  Offensively, there were 13 strikeouts (11 from Bedard), but more positively, Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton hit home runs.  The Devil Rays actually led in the early innings thanks to this, but collapsed by giving up six fourth inning runs.  Sonnanstine was very good in AAA and I lobbied for his promotion, but he is now 1-7 with the big team and is still adjusting heavily.  Steve Avery went from 3-11 in 1990 to 18-8 in 1991, which shows what a little development and adjusting can do for a young pitcher.  I’m not giving up on him yet.

And The Home Of The Braves…

-The Atlanta Braves have continued winning since their acquisitions of Mark Teixeira and Octavio Dotel.  Dotel gave up a grand slam Saturday night in a game the Braves still won, but Teixeira has fared better, hitting home runs in his first three games with the team (the first Brave to accomplish this since Gary Sheffield in 2002).  While the Mets keep winning, the Braves stay right up behind them, ready to take the lead more with every win, including the huge 10-inning Sunday win over the Rockies, one they needed because every other team in the division also won.  They continue to win with a host of young guys and a good core of veteran leadership.  If they do, in fact, reach the playoffs, this temporarily becomes a Braves blog.  I think there’s still a great chance, seeing what they did at the trade deadline.
-Although it terribly, horribly pains me to see him do this with the hated Mets, congratulations to Tom Glavine on his 300th Major League win.  Many and most of those wins were with the Braves, of course.  And as much as I dislike him until he retires, nobody can forget his 1995 World Series performance that won Atlanta a World Championship.  You’ll be in the Hall of Fame as a Brave, Tom, and for that we will worship you.  Once you leave the Mets.

That says it all for this weekend in baseball.  Well, two guys hit big home runs to reach career milestones.  Two young guys named Rodriguez and Bonds.  More on them later.  The Devil Rays will now fly straight into Detroit and pitch Edwin Jackson against Justin Verlander in the opener.  I don’t even think Pete Rose would bet for the Devil Rays if he worked for them.  But I still have just a bit of hope that, maybe, they’ll actually win.  Hey, Jackson beat the Yankees, why not?  Until next time, go Devil Rays.

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