Brian Roberts, center, is mobbed by his teammates after hitting… (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene…)
New Orioles manager Buck Showalter is stating the obvious when he says baseball is a game of adjustments. But the way Showalter sees it, the Orioles have spent too many seasons -- 13, to be exact -- adjusting their starting lineups and rotations to the rest of the American League.
"We got some things we can bring, too," Showalter said before Monday night's game against the Chicago White Sox. "We've been making people make adjustments to some things we're doing now. We want to be more proactive than reactive."
The Orioles have not only improved dramatically in the week since Showalter took over, but they also have become proactive. The latest example came in Monday's 3-2 victory at Camden Yards, when Brian Roberts led off the bottom of the 10th inning with his first home run of the season.
The victory was the third in four games against the first-place White Sox and the sixth in seventh games under Showalter -- as well as their third walk-off win of the homestand. It came after Paul Konerko had tied the score at 2 in the top of the ninth with a leadoff home run against Orioles closer Alfredo Simon.
Not that Showalter was getting too excited about his team's fourth one-run victory since he came to Baltimore.
"There's another challenge around every corner," said Showalter, whose team begins a six-game road trip in Cleveland tonight. "You can't dwell much on it. It's the same way with losses and tough games. Now the road presents a challenge for us. If you look at it statistically, it's been a real challenge for us."
But Showalter was very happy for Roberts, whose season recently resumed after the veteran second baseman missed 3 1/2 months with a herniated disk in his back.
"I don't want to use the word sympathy, but you have some empathy for where he's at," Showalter said. "He's trying to finish strong here the last month and a half. You look at his track record, and you know what's there. You know why he's been such a valuable player here. I feel I've got some bullets that other people didn't have."
Roberts' home run, onto the flag court in right field on the second pitch from reliever J.J Putz, was the first of his abbreviated season. It came on a night when Roberts seemed frustrated early after striking out in his first two times up against right-hander Edwin Jackson, who had won his past four decisions against the Orioles.
After the second strikeout, Roberts threw his helmet and bat down in disgust.
"I've had my ups and downs, but that's no different than if you've been playing for four months," Roberts said. "Early on, everything was a little fast. Things are starting to slow down a little bit."
They slowed down just enough on Putz's second pitch, a fastball.
"At that time in the game, you're always trying to figure out whether to take a strike or not," Roberts said. "I figured, 'Let's try and put a good swing on it.' You're pretty sure you're going to get a heater at that point, 1-0 and leading off the inning. I was just fortunate to get a good pitch to hit."
The home run set off a happy, though not wild, celebration at home plate. Given the injury Roberts has come back from and the well-publicized incidents that have left others going from getting piled on by their teammates one moment to finding themselves on the disabled list the next, the Orioles were careful not to make Roberts' big hit his last of the season.
Asked about the feeling in the clubhouse the past week, Roberts said: "It's been great. Obviously, as you can see, we're playing really good baseball. It all starts with the guy leading off inning No. 1 and throws that first pitch. Our starters have been great. They've gotten us deep in games, our bullpen has been good and we've battled like crazy to score runs. Right now, we're having a lot of fun."
The Orioles got another quality start from second-year pitcher Brian Matusz. Except for the third inning, when he hit leadoff hitter Juan Pierre and allowed a run-scoring double to Alex Rios, the 23-year-old left-hander was even sharper than when he beat the Los Angeles Angels in his previous start, allowing one run and three hits in six innings Monday.
Except for Simon's giving up a leadoff homer to Konerko in the ninth, the bullpen pitched well, too.
Koji Uehara pitched two perfect innings behind Matusz, not allowing a fair ball beyond the infield. Michael Gonzalez was a bit shaky but escaped a jam in the ninth by striking out Andruw Jones. And Matt Albers got the Orioles out of trouble in the 10th.
"It's a good feeling coming away from a win, whether I get the win or not," Matusz said. "It's very exciting. We're in a good groove right now."
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