Bright Spot

Rookie Hernandez Shuts Down Red Sox After Limiting Yankees To One Run A Week Ago

July 27, 2009|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

BOSTON - -After what had transpired on this nine-game road trip, there was very little that was going to allow the Orioles to board a plane here Sunday night feeling good about themselves or the future of their organization.

But over seven innings Sunday afternoon against a lineup that has doomed so many Orioles pitchers before him, rookie right-hander David Hernandez delivered the finest and longest start of his young career and provided the organization with one positive to take home from an extremely difficult trip.

Hernandez, in a fitting follow-up to a strong performance against the New York Yankees last Monday, allowed just one run, and the Orioles knocked around John Smoltz to finally beat the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park, their 6-2 victory before an announced 37,606 ending an 11-game skid here.

"Hernandez is special," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "I think for him to come in here after the [way] he pitched in Yankee Stadium shows a lot about how far he's come and what he means to our future. You've got a guy who came in here and used his fastball. He pitched with confidence and ... poise and he didn't get rattled one bit."

Batting cleanup for the first time all season with the slumping Aubrey Huff getting the day off, Nick Markakis went 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs as the Orioles (42-55) built a 6-0 lead against Smoltz by the top of the fifth inning. Smoltz, who also surrendered run-scoring hits to Felix Pie, Nolan Reimold and Ty Wigginton, lasted just five innings, his ERA jumping to 7.04 after six starts.

With a loss, the Orioles would have had their losingest road trip since August 2003. Instead, they returned to Baltimore, where they'll start a four-game series against the Kansas City Royals tonight, with a 2-7 record on the trip, and just their second road win against an American League East foe in 18 tries this season.

"I don't have to talk about it anymore," Trembley said. "People don't have to write about it anymore. It's one more negative thing that people can cross off, because what we're all about is being positive [and] understanding we have young players showing a lot of perseverance. I think it would've been very easy for us to just come in here today and fold our tent and let them pound on us, but we weren't going to let that happen."

Hernandez, in particular, didn't let that happen. In the two starts on the road trip against the Yankees and Red Sox, Hernandez (3-2) logged 13 innings, allowing just two earned runs, eight hits and three walks while striking out six.

"It's pretty tough, but you know what? If you're going to play for the Orioles, you'd better get used to it at some point," catcher Gregg Zaun said. "It's one of those things, a baptism by fire in this division, and he did a great job today. He had a real good fastball. He had good feel for it, good command in the bullpen and carried it out on the field with him."

It has been a long time since an Orioles pitcher used the dimensions of Fenway Park to his advantage, but that's what Hernandez did in the Orioles' first victory at Fenway Park since July 11 of last season.

Of the 21 outs he got, 17 were in the air as Hernandez, relying primarily on his mid 90s fastball, repeatedly got Boston hitters to loft balls into the spacious center-field alleys, prompting Red Sox slugger David Ortiz to say, "I believe that the outfielders, they don't need to catch no more fly balls for the rest of the week."

Hernandez struck out two and got Jason Bay to ground out twice, but the rest of the outs were either on fly balls, pop fouls or line drives.

"Nothing really surprises me anymore," Hernandez said. "I know I pitch to either fly balls or strikeouts. But they are outs. That's really all that matters."

Hernandez retired the first nine Red Sox in order and didn't allow a run until Jed Lowrie made it a 6-1 game with a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning. He then stranded base runners in the sixth and seventh innings before Jim Johnson and George Sherrill got the final six outs of the game.

"We had a rocky road trip," Markakis said. "We could have easily laid down and got on the bus and went home. But we came out and swung the bats well, and Hernandez did a great job."

Hernandez on a roll

David Hernandez's pitching line in his two games on the Orioles' just-completed trip:

Date Opp. IP H R ER BB K

7/20 Yankees 6 3 1 1 3 4

7/26 Red Sox 7 5 1 1 0 2

Happy homecomings

The Orioles return home tonight to face the Royals. They're 6-1 in the first game of homestands this season:

April 6: Yankees:

W, 10-5:: Cesar Izturis homers in four-run eighth on Opening Day

April 21: White Sox:

W, 10-3:: Brad Bergesen wins major league debut; Nick Markakis is 4-for-4

May 6: Twins:

W, 4-1:: Luke Scott and Markakis homer in rain-shortened victory

May 25: Blue Jays:

W, 4-1:: Jeremy Guthrie allows one run in seven innings on Memorial Day

June 9: Mariners:

W, 3-1:: Bergesen pitches eight shutout innings; Nolan Reimold homers

June 26: Nationals:

W, 11-1:: Bergesen is sharp and benefits from eight-run sixth inning

July 10: Blue Jays:

L, 2-0:: Jason Berken is tough-luck loser as O's manage just five hits

ROYALS @ORIOLES

Tonight, 7:05

TV: MASN2

Radio: 105.7 FM

INSIDE

Markakis cleans up as 4-hole fill-in PG 5

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