The Orioles lineup finally broke out in a 14-5 win on Tuesday and received good news about the status of shortstop J.J. Hardy.
Though the 31-year-old was sidelined for the fourth time in five games while dealing with lower back spasms, manager Buck Showalter said prior to Tuesday’s game that Hardy would have been available to come off the bench if necessary. Of course, the convincing win over the New York Yankees made Hardy’s use unnecessary as the Orioles provided more than enough offense to support a shaky outing from starter Wei-Yin Chen.
“A lot better, much more available,” Showalter told reporters of Hardy’s status prior to Tuesday’s win. “I’m optimistic he’d be an option [Tuesday]. We’ll see how the rest of the day goes. I wouldn’t have said that [Monday]. He’s improved, very close to being ready to start. … You can tell just by his face. So that’s good.”
With All-Star third baseman Manny Machado still on the 15-day disabled list while recovering from offseason knee surgery, the Orioles have been without a pair of Gold Glove defenders on the left side of the infield.
Left with a short bench, Showalter has been forced to use Ryan Flaherty, Steve Lombardozzi, and Jonathan Schoop at three infield positions, but the trio combined to go 8-for-15 with four runs scored on Tuesday to ease concerns about the bottom of the order.
With the Orioles scheduled to play a night game Thursday to conclude their three-game set with New York before an off-day, Showalter could elect to keep Hardy on the bench for one more game to be on the safe side before the Orioles return to Camden Yards to begin a six-game homestand.
Chen struggles again
Lost in the offensive explosion occurring in Tuesday’s win was another lackluster effort by Chen, who earned the win despite allowing four earned runs and nine hits in five innings of work.
In two starts, Chen has allowed eight earned runs and 21 hits over 10 2/3 innings. The Taiwanese lefty has yet to issue a walk this season, but he’s often been up in the strike zone while catching too much of the plate.
The Yankees and Red Sox did have their share of hits that weren’t exactly clobbered against Chen — suggesting he’s been unlucky on top of his overall ineffectiveness — but his start to the 2014 season continues a disturbing trend from the end of last season. Over his last nine starts dating back to Aug. 27, 2013, Chen has allowed 72 hits over 46 innings of work while posting a 6.65 earned run average and a 1.85 WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched).
Of course, Chen’s track record over the first two-plus seasons of his career suggests he’s much better than what he’s shown recently, but his lack of command within the strike zone has been alarming.
Bats finally wake up
After being held to just 22 runs in their first seven contests, the Orioles plated 14 runs and bashed 20 hits to quell premature panic about the offense. The last time the Orioles collected 20 hits was May 10, 2011.
All nine starters collected at least one hit and all but one (Matt Wieters) had multi-hit games. Wieters, Adam Jones, and Delmon Young each hit home runs to match the Orioles’ total of three long balls in the first seven contests of the year.
Wieters and Young each collected three runs batted in against Yankees pitching.