Waters runs deep

Starter allows one hit in eight innings in major league debut

Orioles 3 Angels 0

August 06, 2008|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,Sun reporter

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Chris Waters wasn't even the Orioles' first choice. They had wanted to give the ball to Triple-A Norfolk's Hayden Penn before a piece of a broken bat bloodied the pitcher's leg in a warm-up start, scuttling him from consideration.

So with few other options, Waters, a 27-year-old left-hander who has toiled in the minor leagues since 2000 and hadn't pitched regularly above Double-A until a couple of months ago, was given the assignment of facing the best team in the major leagues. It didn't seem fair for a pitcher who had a 5.70 ERA in 18 Triple-A appearances this season.

But Waters defied even the most wildly optimistic expectations in his major league debut, throwing an eight-inning, one-hit masterpiece in the Orioles' 3-0 victory before an announced 44,027 at Angel Stadium.

A day after walking home the final run, George Sherrill got the final three outs as the Orioles clinched a winning road trip heading into this afternoon's series finale here. Waters walked three and hit a batter but allowed only two runners in scoring position, and both came in the third inning. It was just the Orioles' second shutout this season, and it marked the first time the Angels have been shut out at home this year.

The Orioles scored two runs and had four hits before Angels starter Jon Garland recorded an out. But Garland settled down and held the Orioles off the scoreboard until Luke Scott's tape-measure solo homer to right field in the seventh gave the visitors a 3-0 lead. It was Scott's 19th home run, with the past two coming off of Garland.

Looking composed from the outside, Waters kept the Angels off balance all night, mixing up his pitches and spotting his fastball, which hovered in the mid- to high 80s. He was in trouble only once, hitting former Oriole Gary Matthews Jr. in the third inning and following that with a four-pitch walk to Jeff Mathis.

But he got out of that jam and retired 17 of the final 19 batters he faced. That stretch included seven straight to end his outing. The only hit he allowed was a leadoff single to Vladimir Guerrero in the second that bounced just in front of right fielder Nick Markakis.

Orioles manager Dave Trembley acknowledged before the game that Chris Waters wasn't the organization's first choice to make last night's start.

"When Penn had to get taken out of the game in the first inning, I think the consensus of opinion was that he wasn't given an adequate opportunity to prepare himself to come here," Trembley said. "His outing was cut short. I wanted him to throw two innings or 35 pitches. He threw two-thirds of an inning. The recommendation came from our player-development people and our minor league pitching coordinator that Waters was the guy."

Waters was 8-6 with a 4.65 ERA in 24 games between Double-A Bowie and Norfolk this season, including 3-1 with a 3.60 ERA in six starts for the Tides in July. A fifth-round selection by the Atlanta Braves in 2000, Waters signed with the Orioles as a minor league free agent before the 2007 season.

Needless to say, he wasn't exactly on the Orioles' radar heading into the season.

With much of the pre-game talk revolving around how Waters would respond to his first major league start, it was actually Garland that experienced the rocky beginning.

Garland had allowed two runs and four hits and thrown 22 pitches before getting his first out. Brian Roberts led off the game with a single, and then Markakis drove him in with a double to right-center. Melvin Mora knocked in Markakis with a single, giving the Orioles a 2-0 lead and the third baseman his 70th RBI of the season.

When Aubrey Huff singled, putting runners on first and second with no outs, Angels pitching coach Mike Butcher emerged from the dugout for a lengthy discussion with Garland. It turned out to be a wise move. Garland got Ramon Hernandez to hit into a double play and then retired Kevin Millar on a flyout. Garland needed just two pitches to get the three outs after throwing 22 without retiring an Oriole.

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

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