Orioles battle Pesky Pole at Fenway Park

September 23, 2012|By Eduardo A. Encina, The Baltimore Sun

BOSTON — — The Pesky Pole got the best of the Orioles on Sunday afternoon.

In the Orioles' 2-1 loss to the Red Sox at Fenway Park, the 100-year-old ballpark's fabled right-field corner played a huge part in two key plays.

With the tying run on first in the top of the ninth inning, pinch hitter Jim Thome laced a line drive down the right-field line — it is just 302 feet down the line — that one-hopped over the short fence for a ground-rule double.

"It's part of playing in different ballparks," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "We had two routine fly balls [Saturday off the Green Monster] to the left fielder or we wouldn't have been playing extra innings, so it's part of the nuances of ballparks being different."

At any other ballpark, Thome's hit — which was similar to the ground-rule double he hit in the 12th inning of the Orioles' 9-6 win Saturday — would have likely lodged into the right-field corner and allowed Mark Reynolds to score.

But Reynolds was sent back to third base once the ball bounced into the stands. The Orioles loaded the bases that inning, but couldn't plate the tying run.

"That's part of this park," said Reynolds, who added that he would have scored had the ball not bounced into the seats. "I'm sure we had a couple balls hit the monster that would have been outs at other places. We had our chances, couldn't get it done. But there's still some games left to play."

In the first inning, center fielder Adam Jones hit an opposite-field ball to right into the short right-field corner that Cody Ross made an outstanding running catch on, reaching his glove into the stands while slamming into the wall at full speed.

"Nice play by Cody," Jones said. "He's a good outfielder. I hit it good. I've never had a Pesky Pole home run. He made a good play. Play of the game. We made some good defensive plays also. That's a part of the game. We had three or four opportunities to get the ball across and we were unable, but we still put ourselves in that position, which was a positive."

Ironically, the Red Sox held a postgame ceremony honoring Red Sox great Johnny Pesky, who died Aug. 13. It was attended by current Red Sox players and former standouts like Roger Clemens, Carlton Fisk and Jim Rice.

Hunter hits triple-digits

When one of Orioles right-hander Tommy Hunter's fastballs hit 101-mph on stadium radar gun in the 11th inning of the O's 9-6 extra inning win Saturday, it raised some eyebrows in the dugout.

"If that gun's right, he may have found a home," Showalter said after the 12-inning win.

Hunter said Sunday that he's reached the high 90s as a starter, but his 1-2-3 inning Saturday was a little different. According to the stadium radar gun, he threw a 101-mph fastball to Dustin Pedroia, then a 100-mph pitch. Seven of his 12 pitches in the inning were 98 mph or higher, according to the official game play by play.

"For one inning, instead of when you are going six or seven, [it is] totally different than starting as anyone can tell you," Hunter said. "[Brian] Matusz will tell you the same thing. It's totally different. It's just different. I don't know. You throw hard. Everybody usually throws hard out of the 'pen than they do starting. I hit 97 in a start in Cleveland, 98 in Cleveland. I don't understand why everyone is sort of shocked."

Hunter, who was Saturday's winning pitcher, has struggled as a starter this season, going 4-8 with a 5.71 ERA and allowing 30 homers in 20 starts . He's pitched remarkably better as a reliever since returning to the Orioles' roster in September, throwing seven straight scoreless relief outings over eight innings, allowing just six hits and striking out nine.

"I think it got everybody's attention in here," Showalter said of Hunter's triple-digit reading. "To try to say nobody looks up there at the gun, sure you do. You try to see the speed on the breaking ball and the change up. … I don't know if you remember, the first day we got him in a trade we were in Kansas City and we brought him out of the 'pen just to get his feet wet. He lit it up pretty good there, but nothing like he did" Saturday.

Orioles organize rotation for Jays series

Depending on the day, Showalter has as many as eight different starting options for his musical-chairs starting rotation. And rookie Steve Johnson has been plucked out of the mix to start the first game of Monday's doubleheader against the Blue Jays at Camden Yards.

Johnson hasn't made a start since earning his second major league game against the Blue Jays on Aug. 25, pitching six innings of two-run, four-hit ball with seven strikeouts and two walks in an 8-2 win over the Jays.

Since that game against Toronto, Johnson has thrown five straight scoreless relief appearances, allowing just three hits in 11 innings. He last pitched Tuesday in Seattle, tossing three scoreless relief innings.

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